, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 497-499
Date: 30 Jun 2011

Nature, not books

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A group of children sit under the spreading branches of a tree, which drops its leaves in the verdant meadow all around them. They raise their arms imploringly to the skies, stretching towards their standing teacher, who, upon closer inspection, holds a bird, perched on her fist. All eyes are trained, riveted, on the creature. What are they doing?

This striking, nostalgic, and evocative image adorns the cover of Sally Gregory Kohlstedt’s new book; it is well chosen, as it encapsulates many of the central arguments of her work. In Teaching Children Science: Hands-On Nature Study in North America, 18901930, readers discover that the children and their teacher are participating in a nature study activity: the group is outside, rather than being in a classroom (perhaps the out-of-focus building in the distance); no books are in sight; and, crucially, an actual natural object is the focus of the lesson. Kohlstedt’s book highlights the central importance of these types of educational practic ...