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The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Animal Survival (Grades 3-8)

By Don Balick

TOPS Learning Systems
10970 South Mulino Road
Canby, OR 97013

The TOPS people sure do know how to make learning FUN! Animal Survival is a book of structured hands-ons activities which is part of their "science with simple things series." These people take a lot of the so called "junk" we all have laying around our houses and turn it into an "educational gold mine!" I would describe their teaching method like doing a unit study where the student does all the research. This is not simple stuff either. It is independent, investigative, thought-provoking learning. The teacher simply supplies the materials and feedback.

Animal Survival begins by explaining the TOPS educational philosophy, general instructions, and a supply list (most of which you have laying around the house). A "logic tree" neatly organizes the activities into related groups. Next there is a page of extension activity suggestions to enhance your student's understanding of the material. Again, these are completed by the student NOT the teacher. Included in this area are review or test questions with answers, as well as notes to help you "teach to a higher level" so that your student is getting the most out of each lesson.

PART II covers the activities themselves. Each activity includes a student worksheet, lesson objective and notes, answer key, extension activity if there is one, and a materials list. The student worksheets give wonderful instructions with detailed black and white drawings which are easy to follow. Activity I is designed to enhance observation and communication skills. Activity 4 involves observing an animal, writing out those observations, and being able to distinguish between "observation" and "hypothesis." Any animal can be observed. Activity 13 discusses camouflage, while activity 15 explores how animals use shape, color and sound to ward away predators. There are 20 total activities in this unit.

Part III has a few pages of supplementary cutouts used in two of the activities. How much easier can these people make it for the teacher...not much! I just can't say enough about the TOPS Learning Systems products. Around our house, they are simply (and I mean "simply") the best. Even Mom enjoys "doing" science the TOPS way!

-- Product Review By: Teri Lucas, Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

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