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In the Hands of a Child Project Pack: Herpetology Review by Josiah Wright

By Katie Kubesh, Niki McNeil, and Kimm Bellotto
In the Hands of a Child
3271 Kerlikowske Rd.
Coloma, MI 49038

"Lapbook." It's a deceptively simple word, isn't it? One would never guess how versatile, useful, and just plain awesome these little folders-with-aspirations-to-grandeur could be. When we (read: my homeschooling teacher, a.k.a. "Mom") discovered lapbooks a number of years ago, we (read: me as the angelic homeschool student) fell head over heels in love with them! Who would have thought you could fit so much school into so little space and have fun in the process? The general idea is simple enough. Just fold a manila folder in on itself, shutter-style, and fill it up with neatly folded (or not!) little "minibooks" to encapsulate what you've learned over recent weeks. In fact, the only problems we encountered in constructing our lapbooks were either running out of fun folds and minibooks or running out of things to put in them! Enter "Project Packs," pre-prepared notebooks that outline, step by step, how to construct a lapbook on a specific subject.

Given my love for all things herpetile, and a burning desire to "know the scientific names of beings animalculous," the Herpetology Project Pack was an obvious choice. The general idea is--like the lapbook itself--simple and elegant: a notebook of information on herpetology with study plans and reproducible minibooks in the back. The entire thing is ostensibly self-contained, but parents will likely find that their students need to do a good deal of additional research to complete the activities as suggested. Naturally, the actual folder and paper used to construct your lapbook will also need to be purchased separately.

As for the actual information contained in the Project Pack, it would be most accurate to say that it covers a lot of information in a little depth. The curriculum goes through the basics of herpetology, from the anatomical and behavioral differences between amphibians and reptiles to possible careers in the field of herpetology, in a paragraph or two per subject. Fortunately, however, there is a relatively extensive bibliography of additional sources included for the inquisitive student who wishes to know more. Though the book is marketed for "high school and up," I think the depth of information and style of writing are better suited for the average middle-schooler, though high school students could certainly adapt it for their use. It is also worth mentioning that Project Packs in general, while not designed specifically for homeschoolers, would definitely be best suited to a homeschool environment. This is also a thoroughly scripted unit study, though it can be adapted to a more relaxed, flexible approach, particularly for a kinesthetic or visual learner.

Overall, I felt that the Herpetology Project Pack had its weaknesses and its strong points, most of which depend on one's point of view. For instance, some parents might appreciate the ease of using the pre-made minibooks, while others might feel they stifle their children's creativity. I, for one, appreciated the seamless integration of the unit study on herpetology with the actual process of lapbook creation. Still, it would have been nice to see more information in greater depth, perhaps at the expense of a few of the somewhat superfluous reproducibles.

On the whole, I think this Herpetology Project Pack is an excellent resource. If you enjoy the structured approach of unit studies or would like something to use as a starting point in a more flexible study, Project Packs are just the ticket!

Product review by Josiah Wright, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2010