When it comes to keeping kids’ interest in a subject alive, combining hands-on activities with knowledge is key. That’s why the Build It Yourself books from Nomad Press is such a great resource not just for classrooms, but also for at-home application of new learning. Each book has 25 projects that are both accessible and fun. The topics focus on science and history, and are most appropriate for ages 9-12.
One popular topic for most young people is dinosaurs and other animals that are extinct. Discovering fossils, finding out and explaining the causes of species extinction, and looking at whether we are in the middle of a sixth mass extinction event is all included in Extinction: What Happened to the Dinosaurs, Mastodons, and Dodo Birds? This book has background knowledge and a timeline for young people new to the idea, but it also has a deep dive into “how scientists know what they know” and explanations of extinctions in each era.
There are several aspects especially appealing to families with motivated learners. One is the focus on primary sources. The book’s sections have QR codes for easy online research and a list of resources for further learning. The other is the inclusion of essential questions for focus and critical thinking.
The 25 projects in Extinction are easily adapted for different ages and abilities. And while many use kitchen supplies, some will take kids outdoors and into parks. They range from simple and familiar projects to more complex activities that include record keeping and long-term observations.
Have a history buff? For those interested in the issues surrounding western expansion and Manifest Destiny in United States history, there is The Oregon Trail: The Journey Across the Country from Lewis and Clark to the Transcontinental Railroad. As with other Build it Yourself books from Nomad Press, there is a detailed timeline, word cloud, and background information (included a map) to help children familiarize themselves with what is to come.
The book addresses the impact on Native American tribes, and it acknowledges the presence African Americans had in westward expansion. However, at times it glosses over the more nefarious details, probably due to the intended age group. Still, questions about the legality of the Louisiana Purchase, the unfairness of colonization and homesteading, and the negative impact the railroad had on Plains tribes are detailed, including the Sand Creek massacre and the near extinction of the buffalo.
The projects in The Oregon Trail range from writing a treaty to mapping changes in the USA to preserving plants in the style of Lewis and Clark. There are even instructions for water purification and drying fruit, in case someone is inspired to set out on their own. Each project can be easily adapted to a child’s interest and abilities.
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