Science educational standards for most states include scientific methodology, and Scientists in the Fieldis a great series to use for teaching kids in intermediate grades and middle school about the work of scientists. Each book in the series follows real scientists as they seek to understand a specific topic in biology, zoology, earth science, astronomy, and more. Authors and photographers follow real scientists out in the field, showing that science is more than cold laboratories and white coats. Doing science is dirty, strenuous work, and can sometimes be very disappointing.
My favorite books in this series are usually about animals. I especially liked Saving the Ghost of the Mountain : An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia, in which author Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop joined scientist Tom McCarthy as he searched for these almost invisible felines in Mongolia. They climbed steep mountain trails, collected samples—usually of scat (scientific term for poop)—and set up cameras to try to detect the snow leopard. A good lesson taught in this book is that scientists do not always reach their goal; despite the information that they did uncover, no sign of a snow leopard was seen on this expedition.
Another favorite of mine is Kakapo Rescue : Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot, again by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop. This time they travel to a small island off the coast of New Zealand where scientists are struggling to keep this small ground parrot from going extinct. Again, despite all of the efforts of the scientists, they are not able protect every baby kakapo. Kakapo Rescue won the 2011 Robert F. Sibert Medal for informational books for children.
Two new books in the series have come out in 2011. In The Manatee Scientists : Saving Vulnerable Species, Peter Lourie travels to Florida, Senegal, the Amazon, and West Africa, and follows three scientists as they work to save the manatees from human encroachment, environmental hazards, and being hunted. These scientists make an aerial count of manatees in Florida, try to save manatees trapped in a dam in Senegal, and search for a young manatee released into the Amazonian wild.
In The Elephant Scientist, scientist/photographer Caitlin O’Connell studies elephant behavior, especially the way they communicate. While watching a family group heading toward a water hole, she saw them suddenly come to a stop while the matriarch leaned forward on her front feet. She recognized this behavior from her studies of much smaller animals, including insects and scorpions, that communicate through their legs and feet. Could it be that elephants also communicate with their limbs? Author Donna M. Jackson and photographer Timothy Rodwell travel along as Caitlin researches her theory.
Check out the over 20 titles in this fascinating and on-going series.
The Elephant Scientist by Donna M. Jackson. 2011.
Kakapo Rescue : Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery. 2010.
The Manatee Scientists : Saving Vulnerable Species by Peter Lourie. 2011.
Saving the Ghost of the Mountain : An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia by Sy Montgomery. 2009.
OTHER ANIMAL TITLES in the Scientists in the Field series:
The Bat Scientists by Mary Kay Carson. 2010.
Emi and the Rhino Scientist by Mary Kay Carson. 2007.
The Frog Scientist by Pamela S. Turner. 2009.
The Hive Detectives : Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns. 2010.
Project Seahorse by Pamela S. Turner. 2010.
Quest for the Tree Kangaroo : An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea by Sy Montgomery. 2006.
The Whale Scientists : Solving the Mystery of Whale Strandings by Fran Hodgkins. 2007.
Whaling Season : A Year in the Life of an Arctic Whale Scientist by Peter Lourie. 2009.
The Woods Scientist by Stephen R. Swinburne. 2002.