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Everchanging Erosion Review by Melissa Theberge and Kendra Fletcher

By Cindy West and Melissa Leach
Shining Dawn Books, LLC

If unit studies are your passion, then the Everchanging Erosion e-book is sure to please! Two homeschooling mothers collaborated to assemble a comprehensive study about land erosion caused by both water and weather. I was immediately pleased to see a wide variety of activities throughout the unit and an abundance of information, eliminating the need to spend time searching for appropriate materials and ideas on my own.

Everchanging Erosion opens with author biographies and an introductory page about how the unit is useful for all homeschooling styles and methods, not just for those who prefer unit studies. With slight adaptations, it could be used in any classroom or nature interest group. The introduction states that the book is written with elementary age children in mind, but there are numerous ideas included for extending the learning with older children.

The unit begins with a "Literature Launch" where two books are suggested for reading, followed by a brief page of background information about erosion. Then it's time to "get outside with erosion" using one of the numerous ideas included. Nearly two pages of ideas about how and where to find erosion make it easy to find learning opportunities in any area. References to notebooking pages are included when appropriate, and these are found in the appendix.

The next section of the book is dedicated to ideas for "Branching out with Erosion." There you will find a varied list of hands-on learning ideas for all ages, and it is in this list that I found the most creative ideas for use with my family. Some of the in-home ideas for creating erosion visuals were quite inventive and great for all ages. And as a mom who hesitates at the suggestion of hands-on activities, I was overjoyed to see such a substantial list of ideas that I could implement without a single trip to the store for "supplies."

To extend learning further, a two-page comprehensive list of research and writing questions is included for use, depending on the age and need of the student. The possibilities with these suggestions are endless, and in reading them I am inspired to consider the learning possibilities. I wish we had time to do more of them! Written reports, oral presentations, poster displays, science fair projects, and demonstrations are just a few ways that the list could be used.

The authors also incorporated Bible lessons related to erosion, poetry suggestions, art and picture study ideas, composer and music references, a literature list, related Internet links, and more than a page of additional ways to incorporate the youngest and oldest learners in your family. As if that wasn't enough, nature club and co-op suggestions are included for group study. Finally, an appendix of creative handouts is included for family or classroom use. Following the appendix, three articles are provided to guide the instructor in nature study, offering encouragement in why, where, and how to study nature, including step-by-step instructions for creating student notebooks for use during the unit study.

All 36 pages could be printed for ease of use, but if cost-saving is a priority, simply pre-read the book on-screen and decide how much you actually want to print. After reading the book on-screen, I chose to print portions of the book in black and white and to look at the color images on the computer screen with my children before using the printed pages. Another option would be to print only the activity pages and to read all preparatory and teaching material on-screen.

I am thrilled at the sheer volume of information and ideas in this book, but my one concern is its organization. At first glance, I was anticipating a read-and-go format. But as I began, I realized that the information for the teacher is split between the numerous introduction pages and the nature study articles found at the end of the book. In addition, the suggestions for including older and younger students seem out of place and could possibly go unnoticed at first. I would have liked to see those suggestions incorporated into sections of hands-on ideas and research ideas where they would be more easily found.

Erosion is not a topic that I would have spent much time on before seeing this unit study, but with so many fun learning ideas, it is hard to resist. The authors have numerous other unit studies based on nature as well, and I suspect the ideas and suggestions in them are just as rich, varied, and well thought out as they are in Everchanging Erosion.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2009

Another review:

Cindy West and Melissa Leach have written some really useful and well-crafted unit study E-Books on subjects such as animal signs, butterflies, clouds, fruits and nuts, deciduous trees, and many more. Both homeschooling moms with a love for nature and nature study, Cindy and Melissa know what is helpful to the homeschooling mom as well as what is captivating for the student.

In Everchanging Erosion, land erosion caused by water and land erosion caused by weather are presented with plenty of basic information and lovely photographs. It would not have occurred to me to take the topic of erosion as a unit study, but when presented in such an engaging way, I think there's a lot to be gained by a study about erosion, particularly if you live in an area where erosion is common (the California coast, for example) or have a student who plans to study agriculture, botany, or aspects of landscaping.

The activities suggested are worthwhile. Here's an example:

When a landslide or rockslide occurs near you, see if you can safely get close enough to observe the big-scale changes in the land. Draw a before and after picture of the area. Note what materials you see at the bottom of the slide. If you are not aware of a landslide or rockslide in your area, call your local extension office, and they may be able to tell you of one that happened in your area in the past. Ask if the event made the newspapers. If so, you may be able to research it further by searching old publications. If you're lucky you may find photographs. If possible, personally observe where it happened to see what it looks like now and perhaps find evidence from when it happened.

And resources! Everchanging Erosion is packed with resources; you won't have to pull this study together, because Cindy and Melissa have done it so well for you. You'll find inspirational literature, ideas for nature walks and other outside activities, follow-up hands-on activity ideas, writing and research ideas (yes! writing assignments already crafted!), references for Bible study, artist and composer study, poetry tie-ins, kid-friendly Internet links and book lists for further study, and beautiful notebooking pages. Comic strips! Mini booklets! File folder reports! See? Everchanging Erosion is just packed.

If you're a mom with multiple ages in your homeschool, Cindy and Melissa give you ideas for adapting the material for younger and older children. While written with the elementary child in mind, Everchanging Erosion is very adaptable for younger and older students. Everchanging Erosion would make a great co-op unit study too.

Included is a section for the teacher with just a few thoughts to get you interested and excited about teaching and studying the topic. There's a "Literature Launch," which includes one or more children's books recommendations--all are great pieces of living literature or really super non-fiction selections. "A Bit of Background" gives the teacher some background knowledge about the topic before heading outdoors or starting the indoor studies. About this section the authors write: "This section would certainly be okay to share with children, but the intention is to empower the teacher with basic knowledge about the subject so all those spur of the moment questions can be answered with authority during a nature walk." The authors say this section will not be exhaustive by any means, and many of the research activity suggestions will require other books or Internet resources to find in-depth information. You will also find information such as the best places to go and safety precautions regarding the particular topic.

Nature walks, hands-on activities, writing and research ideas, poetry, artist and picture study references, composer and music references, related Internet links--are you beginning to see what a fantastic resource Everchanging Erosion is?

I have to be honest and say that I have purchased homeschool parent-produced E-Books in the past that haven't lived up to my expectations. Everchanging Erosion not only wowed me by both its scope and depth of information, but it also caused me want to pack up my large brood and get outside to see what we could find. I also found my way to the Shining Dawn Books website ( quickly to see what else we could study.

Product Review by Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2010