Friday, September 02, 2016

Dendrology by Another Name Would Seem as Green: Treecology by Monica Russo

"Trees can be seen almost everywhere we live. Even if you have never seen a forest or taken a woodland walk, you might have enjoyed the cool shade of a tree on a hot day or seen the beauty of a tree in flower. Trees give us visual relief from the city environment. Trees are a vital part of a healthy forest ecology."

Trees are such an integral part of most people's lives that we take them for granted as part of our mental landscapes. We can't see the trees for the forest, so to speak.

But when you look at the impact of trees in absolutely every aspect of human life, you see how essential they are for life on this planet. They actually give us everything they have--the habitat for untold species we depend upon, fuel and building materials, protection against the elements, the nurturing source of streams and rivers, and the life-giving oxygen in the very air we breathe.

It's no wonder that environmental science education often begins and ends with trees and the effect of their presence or absence on human ecology. Monica Russo's new Treecology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Trees and Forests (Young Naturalists) (Chicago Review Press, 2016) offers both an easy educational read for older middle readers and a source book for educators of all kinds, from Scout and camp leaders to classroom teachers. Russo's eight chapters--What Is a Tree? Tree Families, From the Ground Up, Woodland Wildlife, It's Dead...No, It's Alive! It's Nuts! Food for Animals, Out and About, Tree Treks, and People and Trees--and Forest Conservation--begin with the essential definitions and lead the student through widening circles of interaction with the meaning of trees to life on earth and how they themselves fit into that picture, sometimes even simply by planting and tending a tree.

Russo has a hands-on approach to nature science, getting kids down digging in the forest litter and plucking leaves from the branches, counting tree rings, and getting their hands dirty investigating the unseen forms of life that exist even in dead trees and expanding their world view from the canopy of rain forests and the effect forests have on  life even in earth's deserts. Plenty of projects and activities dot each chapter, from a simple leaf rubbing or a collection types of leaves right down to a census of the life forms that exist in a woodland, from the backyard grove to local arboretums to national parks. Multiple color photos fill the pages, illustrating what is discussed in each section.

Russo includes a glossary that introduces cool terms such petiole and fascicle, a table of common and scientific names, a collection of organizations which offer varied materials, a teacher's guide, bibliography, and index. Just in time for those "signs of fall" nature walks, this is an essential for public and school libraries, and a handy and inexpensive resource for any home or classroom bookshelf.

“A labor of love reflecting years of experience in the field as well as in writing for young readers," says Kirkus Reviews.

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