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Coping with the Cold: How Animals Survive the Winter Season and Snow and Ice Review by Katherine Averill

By Cindy West and Melissa Leach
Shining Dawn Books, LLC

Let me preface this review by telling you that I live in New England. Winter is long, dark, and cold. It has just started to brighten up around here, and I know warm weather and green leaves are right around the corner. So you may wonder why I'm about to tell you that I can't wait for winter to start again! Coping with the Cold and Snow and Ice are that exciting. I am actually looking forward to icicles and snow so that I can put these e-books to good use!

Written with the homeschooling family in mind, these e-books can also be useful to scouting troops, 4-H, classroom teachers, and cooperative settings. Both Melissa and Cindy are homeschooling mothers with an obvious love of nature. Geared toward the elementary level, the books are easily adjusted to include both younger and older students.

These books contain so much information. I don't know where to begin. Each book has three main sections: Getting Started, Getting Outside, and Branching Out. Getting Started begins with suggested literature selections. These books can be read whenever you feel appropriate--as a jump-start or after you've begun the lesson. They are not required reading but simply ideas to enrich your studies. Next is a section to inspire you before you begin teaching. With a few well-written paragraphs, the authors have made me wish there was still snow on the ground so I could begin right now. The final piece in the introduction is Background Information. In this brief section, I have already learned two new words to teach my children--"diapause" and "brumation." (I'm not going to tell you what they mean. I'll let Cindy and Melissa teach you!)

Let the fun begin! Bundle up with hats and mittens for the Getting Outside section. We are avid bird watchers in our family, and Coping with the Cold adds to this hobby by teaching us new things to observe. Are the birds huddled together? Flying in formation? Puffing feathers and shivering for warmth? And where, oh where are the bugs? The authors tell us where to look and what different signs tell us about all sorts of life.

Snow and Ice guides us in observing small details and explains the reasons for a vast variety of winter effects. Have you ever noticed snow melting around the base of a tree? I have but never thought to question why. (It's alive, and living things create heat.) Melissa and Cindy get into real wintertime fun by suggesting that the reader experiment with different sleds and relate how well they glide on the various types of snow. The activity suggestions seem endless.

Both books have more hands-on activities in the final section, Branching Out. Here you'll find ideas for including your older and younger children or working with a co-op, writing suggestions, poetry, literature, art and artist studies, and Internet links.

Just when you think these books have given you all you'll need, there's more! The appendix tells you where to study nature (anywhere, even in the city), how to keep safe in the cold, and why to study nature (Biblical reasons). A complete set of notebook pages and notebooking instructions are also included. These books really have it all!

Whatever homeschooling style you use, Coping with the Cold and Snow and Ice will enrich your science studies. While the authors occasionally quote Bible passages and reference Christian values, the books can easily be used by Christian and non-Christian families. I truly can't say enough about them and can't wait for the first flakes of winter!

Product review by Katherine Averill, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2010