Children are born scientists: put them outside and with little or no prompting they'll be exploring their environment climbing trees, digging in the ground, wading into creeks, peeking under rocks. Kids should be encouraged to explore, and that's why Jim Arnosky's new book Field Trips is such a treasure. A fun instruction manual for kids who are curious about nature, Arnosky's book uses easily understood sketches and simple direction to guide readers through simple nature activities, beginning with the creepy-crawly part of the outdoors that youngsters become aware of before they can talk: bugs. With info on how to identify and hunt them, as well as tips on insects to avoid, the book will help get the budding scientist off to a great start. Next on Arnosky's list is tracking animals, a great way to explore the outdoors. There's plenty of advice on how to distinguish footprints from deer to fox to grouse and how to follow sets of tracks. Arnosky also provides tips on how to record findings in a field-trip notebook. Arnosky's observations get a little more sophisticated as the book progresses. His next activity is bird-watching, and his delightful drawings should have kids looking to the sky. His artwork reminds me a lot of Robert McCloskey (Make Way for Ducklings); while not as whimsical, his drawings are detailed and thus very accessible to his intended audience. Finally, the author guides young explorers along the shoreline rivers, lakes and oceans. From the vantage point of the water's edge, he identifies aquatic plants, fish, shells and fossils. A wealth of opportunities for observation and collecting await young explorers along the shore.

Summer is almost here, and this book should be in the library of every home with a budding Jane Goodall or Robert Ballard. If your kids are whining "there's nothing to do," give them Field Trips and a sketchbook and turn them loose in the backyard, the vacant lot or the park down the street. You might even want to go with them who knows, you could all learn something! James Neal Webb likes to walk the shoreline of Radnor Lake in Nashville.

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