CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 6 . . . . October 14, 2016
The "Ecosystems Close-Up" series looks at six different ecosystems. All six books are written by the same author, Megan Kopp, and have a very similar style and presentation. Each book begins with a definition of "What is" the specific ecosystem being examined in the book. Topics are a backyard, coral reef, pond, rainforest tree, tide pool and saguaro cactus.
The books then proceed to look at the living and non-living elements in the specific ecosystem and the relationship among them. Each book includes a simple hands-on activity for students to create to share their understanding of the ecosystem with their friends and family.
The books include "What do you think?" question boxes to encourage both recall and deeper level thinking, a table of contents, index, simple glossary, and a further resources list that includes books and websites.
The books are written at a Grade 1 reading level that makes them accessible to primary students, but they will also be useful for ESL and older developing readers as well. The photos of students engaged in the hands-on activities are of younger students, but the majority of the rest of the photos are colourful nature photographs that will appeal to students of all ages. The students in the photos represent a variety of cultures.
What Do You Find in a Backyard? features squirrels, earthworms, insects, birds, bats, trees, grass plus non-living parts of the ecosystem such as sunlight, air and water. The one misstep in the book is the picture of bats on page 13. One of the bats has a mirror image, and the bat beside it appears to be viewed from below. This is not a natural looking picture.
What Do You find in a Coral Reef? has the most colourful cover of the set. Vibrantly coloured photographs and illustrations entice readers to learn more about this undersea ecosystem. In addition to learning that all living things need fresh water to live, readers will also learn "Fish often get rid of extra salt water when they urinate, or pee." It is hard to resist a primary book that says "pee".
What Do You Find in a Pond? looks at the living and non-living components of a fresh water pond. In addition, this book points out that wetlands and ponds are in trouble both from climate change and pollution and asks students to consider "What would happen to the pond ecosystem if the water disappeared?"
What Do You Find in a Rainforest Tree? helps readers learn how a rainforest tree provides food, water, and shelter for a unique ecosystem. Colourful photos of green tree pythons, orchids and sloths will help students understand the beauty and the diversity of life that exists in a rainforest tree ecosystem. The book also looks at how we are rapidly losing our rainforests and points out "Every single tree lost hurts all of the living things that depend on it".
What Do You find in a Tide Pool? includes a photo example of a tide pool on Vancouver Island. This book stresses how fragile tide pool ecosystems are.
What Do You Find on a Saguaro Cactus? uses the saguaro cactus as an example of an ecosystem that survives in harsh desert conditions.
Saguaro cacti have adapted to the desert conditions and provide shelter and food for other birds and other wildlife. The beautiful photos illustrate both the harshness of the conditions and the abundance of plants and animals that make their homes in and around the saguaro cacti.
Each of the books in the "Ecosystems Close-Up" series includes a section illustrating the interdependence of living things in the specific ecosystem. The impact on an entire system if one living thing is removed or harmed is emphasized.
The books in this series can stand alone, and so the books can be purchased individually or as a set depending on your needs and your budget.
Suzanne Pierson, a retired teacher-librarian, is currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen's University in Kingston, ON.
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