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Hug a Tree, and Other Things to Do with Young Children.

Hug a Tree is a gift to parents, teachers, and others who work primarily with three- to five-year-olds. Over 50 activities are included, and each is presented in an easy-to-follow format. Illustrations by Laurel Sweetman are exceptionally well done.

Rockwell, Sherwood and Williams have backgrounds in elementary education, early childhood education, and special education. Their expertise is evident in teaching tips, discussion topics, and vocabulary words that are highlighted in each activity. The authors have also included special sections within the book to help leaders organize activities, locate additional resources, and make specialty items such as a plant press or bird feeder.

While publications by Steve Van Matre and Joseph Cornell are not listed in the resource section, leaders who are familiar with their work will find similar activities included in Hug a Tree. "Curves and Straights, the Shapes that Nature Makes" is reminiscent of Van Matre's "Shape Hunt," and "1, 2, 3 Hush" is similar to Cornell's "Sound Map."

"Where Do Things Go at Night?" and "Talking About Monster" help children deal with fears and anxieties as they discover more about the world around them. "Everything Is Connected," introduces children to the concept of a web of life, while activities using simple graphs or tally cards such as "What Color Is Spring?" give children an opportunity to learn how to organize and record their findings. "Measure Shadows" and "How Does Your Dandelion Grow?" provide a chance for a child with a longer attention span to measure changes over the course of a day or week.

"Leaves Don't All Fall the Same Way" is an example of a seasonal observation activity. Children are encouraged to discuss or record the way leaves fall and the patterns they make on the ground. Movement exploration is encouraged as children drop leaves from a height and then make believe they're a leaf and act out the way they saw leaves fall. Verbalizing how it might feel to be a leaf in the middle of a pile of leaves can follow a turn at lying on the ground and being covered with fallen leaves.

While activities are carefully designed and keyed to children three to five years of age (two are included for two-year-olds), many of the activity extensions could be adapted for use with elementary school-aged children. The strongest activities are those that encourage observation, discovery, or measurement components of the natural environment.

Even though activities are geared for the very young, leaders are encouraged to discuss how to collect carefully (not all leaves from one tree), and how to take care of things they "borrow" temporarily from the outdoors (as for "Creepy Crawler Race Track"). The authors' stress on returning an insect as close to its "home" as possible after observation demands that leaders stress sensitivity and respect for even the smallest creature.

Shortcomings noted include an almost total stress on science education references, to the exclusion of works more familiar to camping/outdoor education staff and youth leaders. Also, a final "Hodge Podge" section appears to comprise ideas the authors didn't have time to incorporate into previous sections. Too bad. The less than careful reader could miss some good suggestions.

In their foreword, the authors state, "Much of the current research in early childhood education suggests that children's basic attitudes toward life, their approach to new experiences, and their feelings about themselves and others are established in the first few years of life." An introduction to the natural world, with a stress on valuing and caring for it, can begin with simple activities such as those in Hug a Tree.

Hug a Tree was published in 1983 (it is now in its fourth printing) by Gryphon House, Inc., Mt. Ranier, Maryland. It is available through the ACA Bookstore for $9.95, plus $2 shipping and handling. To order with a credit card, call 1-800/428-CAMP.

Reviewed by: Diane Pick, associate professor and coordinator, Program in Recreation and Parks Services, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Camping Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Pick, Diane
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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