Monday, November 8, 2010

The Wonderland of Evolution

It seems to me that younger children engage with science in two ways - through experience ( those messy kitchen experiments, spending time in nature, real-life observations, visits to the museum ) and through story.

The Wonderland of Nature by Nuri Mass has been reprinted now, but a few years ago, when I heard about it on a CM discussion list, it was second hand copies only. The girls still remember when, after months of looking, I pounced upon a copy at St Vinnies for a dollar, the pinnacle of homeschool bargains.

I suppose it's the Australian version of Comstock's Handbook of Nature Studies. It's in five sections; Insects, A Few Other Small Animals, Plants, The Seashore and Remarkable Everyday  Things. What I find remarkable about it is the way Nuri Mass, in a conversational style, presents sound science history as imaginative narrative.

This is how her section on plants begins.

Long ago, when the Earth was young, plants lived only in the sea. The very first of these was a little alga, with only one cell. As time went on, bigger and more complicated plants began to appear....

Things went on like this for millions of years before the first flowers appeared on Earth. That's hard to believe, isn't it ? 

In one page, she presents a child with three ideas - that life has evolved from simple to more complex forms, that this evolution took place on a huge time scale but also that this deserves our curiosity and our wonder. It may not be God's creation that we see, but it is marvellous indeed, and a necessary foundation for an interest in the world.

It's a lovely book to use. Besides the easy style, Mass includes many sketches illustrating her stories, and poems that lighten the mood and reflect the book's content. It can be read through in order, or dipped into as a resource to reflect and broaden what a child is observing in nature around him. It's also a great book to use as part of a multi-disciplinary unit study on evolution as many chapters support and explain evolutionary theory..

The reprinted edition can be purchased from

And please also visit Kylie's blog at Our Worldwide Classroom to read more pre history/history of evolution themed posts or to join her blog hop

1 comment:

  1. I'm curious to hear more about this book. I still haven't purchased it. Shame on me I know!! Thanks for linking back to me too. :-)