Science, Math

KEEPERS OF THE EARTH: NATIVE AMERICAN STORIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN, Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac. Fulcrum Publishing, 350 Indiana Street, Suite 350, Golden CO 80401. 800-992-2908., 234 pages hardcover, $22.95 Map, Black and white illustrations. Teacher's Guide, $9.95, Grades 3-5. 1-55591-027-0

Superbly written and illustrated presentation of Native American philosophies about the environment. Joseph Bruchac has compiled a number of collections of myths and legends of the Abenaki and Iroquois peoples, all of them excellent. He is also a well-known storyteller; a librarian can feel secure about purchasing anything he has written or is associated with. Reviewed by Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood

PG Note: Not really all ages, though older kids may enjoy the stories. This is for elementary school, topping out around Grade 7, for some of the activities in the other books, but at about Grade 5 for those in this first one. Teachers of Earth or Life Science or Biology in upper Middle school grades might find some activities, discussion suggestions, and stories useful supplements, but most of this book is really aimed at children younger than 12. Teachers (or parents using it at home) should also get the Teacher's Guide, which explains the philosophy in mor detail and gives an extensive list of supplementary readings.

This is the first of 3 books for Native-centered science, that include activities suitable for young elementary children through late Middle School Earth Science (for this book). Keepers of the Animals and Kepers of Life (plants) take th same wholistic approach. This philosophy is set forth in the present book by contrasting two kinds of learnings and wholenesses: that obtained by a "journey through the world of Native Amrican beliefs" leading to an overarching, multi-tribal belief that "all things are conncted as one.". This part of the journye is conducted by means of story: legends, myths, tales from many tribes, using the faculty (uisually neglected in education) of imagination. But the stories are only half the story.

"Science takes us on another journey, a different way of seeing than through the eyes of American Indians. Through intellctual and systematic study, science reveals the natures of the earth and humankind in intricate and intriguing detail. Slowly, through the centuris, a sense of order has emerged. Although the knowledge of science, in chronological age, is a child compared to the antiquity of American Indians, th wisdom from both has led us to some of the same lessons about the oneness of people and the environment....The science of eecology, the study of the interactions between living things and thir environments circles back to the ancient wisdom found in the rich oral traditions of American Indian stories. Time and again the stories have said that all of the living and nonliving parts of the earth are one and that people are a part of that wholeness. Today, ecological science agrees."

Bruchac, a well-known Abenaki storyteller, author of many children's books of myths and legends, is responsible for the 25 stories which key the child's imagination into the lessons. Caduto is a non-Indian ecologist and educator, who has received the New ngland Award for Excellence in Environmental Education. He holds an M.S. in Natural Resources/Environmental Education from th University of Michigan and is senior education fellow with the Atlantic Center for the Environment. Together they have crated a useful and powerful educational resource for Native and non-Native schools. It should supplement, but not replace, hands-on science. It may be possible for the skilled teacher to use some of the activitis as lead-ins to quantitative activitis involving measurment, estimation, prediction, and other skills that are fostered in good elementary science programs. The science presented in the keepers series is observational but not quantitative, and does not prepare children for actual science.

As with all books in the Keepers series, there is an introductory 2-page map that shows pre-contact culture areas of North America, with tribal locations. Unfortunately, the center of the map falls in the page division, so it can't be photocopied easily for class distribution. In each book in the series, activitis are coded with small icons indicating which of several types they are. There is a very rough indicator of appropriate age level -- younger children or older ones.

For each book in the series, you can also buy a storybook that contains the 25 or so legends from manmyh different tribes, illustrations, and some background on each story) in paperback for $12.95. Teachers can use the expnsive hardcover -- most student handout or worksheet pages can be duplicated -- and get a storybook for each student.

There is a Teacher's Guide ($9.95) for each book in the series that is a must for any classroom teacher using any of the Keepers books. Each of the Keepers also has a $16.95 2-cassette tape of Joseph Bruchac reading his stories. See audio section of the Audio-Visual page, here.

Reviewed by Paula Giese

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 1996 - 7:16:06 AM