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Cliff Knapp’s exciting new title exploring how 20 dedicated naturalists forged their own connections, and how they carried their methods back out into the world to teach others. This book is the right one for these particular times, when ecological illiteracy threatens to separate our vast population even further from its sources. At the time when many of the naturalists he writes about were working, habitats were common in and near the towns, and nature study was considered a suitable, even desirable topic in the schools. All that is different now. Knapp’s book shows just how we may restore our essential connections to the physical world we all share, through the examples of brilliant naturalists.
Each of the 20 naturalists gets a concise biographical sketch, just enough to put their works in context. Next comes a “Teaching Tale”—a piquant episode from life experience, usually told in the subject’s own words. These tales illuminate the authors as real people, as well as the specific ways in which they went about asking and answering questions, sharing their passion for nature, and ultimately drawing upon their own experiences for purposes of sharing, teaching, and most of all, causing their readers and students to care as they did themselves. The third part of each naturalist’s “species account” is called “Reflecting on the Tale.” Knapp’s reflections are full of questions for readers about how this writer/teacher might have approached a given mystery, and had fun solving it (or not). We see exactly how they drew others into the questions, and how we may do the same. The reflections also tease out both the Skills and Habits of Mind that each naturalist employs and reinforces. Finally, Knapp gives us specific activities designed to practice the skills, all summarized for us (by naturalist) in the useful appendix.
If you care about the history of nature and those who sought to study and preserve it, this book is a perfect addition to your collection.