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Explore Life Cycles! Review by Jennifer Harrison

By Kathleen M. Reilly
Nomad Press
2456 Christian Street
White River Junction, VT 05001
802-649-1995 extension 107

This summer, my children and I are going through a six-week unit study on Life Cycles. This hands-on book from Nomad Press fits our needs perfectly! It is divided into six chapters that help children learn new topics and then explore them with engaging activities and experiments. It is written for children ages 6-9, but it contains activities that can be fun for all ages.

Chapter one introduces the concept of Life Cycles of different creatures, including humans (from babies to adults,) plants (as seeds to flowers,) and mealworms (as eggs to worms and then beetles.) This chapter includes five pages of reading, with fun illustrations, and then three separate activities.

Chapter two discusses classification for nine pages, followed by six fun activities that include making a snack mix and growing your own mealworms into grain beetles.

Chapter three teaches gestation in a very tasteful, age-appropriate way. While very informative, the material does not confuse topics or create unnecessary curiosity for those whose children are not ready for that topic. Most of the focus was on eggs and seeds. The four activities that coincide with this chapter include growing an upside-down plant and creating an underwater viewer. This is especially fun if you have a creek or pond nearby.

Chapter four covers growth and life span. Students explore the different stages of the growth process in different creatures and then experiment with five interesting activities that include making fun snacks and growing mold on bread (not a snack!).

Chapter five teaches propagation of species, but again in a very age-appropriate way. Seeds are the primary focus in this chapter. There are four activities with this chapter, one of which involves making a mini compost bin!

Chapter six, the final chapter, discusses threats to life cycles. For my family, this one will require some discussion about the material. It is an important topic with extremes on both sides. I want to be sure to give my children a balanced, respectful, and healthy view of the earth God created and our role as stewards. With only six pages to introduce the topic, I was surprised that almost an entire page was dedicated to the dangers of DDT and the belief that DDT was responsible for a period of decline within the bald eagle population. This is a myth that has persisted for years even though it has been shown that scientific journals were already publishing concerns that the Bald Eagle was facing extinction 22 years before production of DDT began. And studies were already showing an increase in the population in 1970, before DDT was removed from use. This has me less than thrilled with the final chapter, but it still raises a very important topic to study.

This is a fun, interactive book that makes a perfect guide to an interesting unit study. It is easy enough that you could finish the entire book in a week, if you want to do only one or two activities from each chapter. But there are enough activities to make each chapter last a full week if you prefer. Because the book has great introductions to vocabulary words and some very basic charts, we are working on creating our own lapbook as we go through it. My children think it is a very fun way to learn science, and the activities help them to better grasp the concepts they are learning.

Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2011