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books on education

Outdoor Education
Education In General
History of Education

Pencil and paper are only part of an education.  A great education includes the outdoors too. Play and nature are important in each child's education and development.  Here are a few of many books to read about education and the out-of-doors:

Books on Education (Outdoors)

May Education Flourish!

Books by the Pocket Pumpkin Press (2007-2009).
Childrens' books about native plants and animals, social elements, natural elements, the seasons and southwest Michigan's six landscapes: lake, dunes, wetlands, woods, farms, and towns. www.z-hub.org/pppress/books.html

1. Great Lakes in My World, by the Alliance for the Great Lakes (2005).
This is a curricular textbook.  It contains environmental academic activities for school classes from kindergarten to eighth grade.  The textbook contains activities that study the Great Lakes through each common school subject.  There are art, music, language, science, ecology, biology, social studies, geography, and history exercises to study the Great Lakes and its wildlife.

2. Landscapes for Learning: Creating Outdoor Environments for Children and Youth, by Sharon Stine (1997). 
The author describes that a play area is not limited to swings, ladders, and slides.  The author explains that the best schoolyards and playgrounds include all 18 essential elements: "accessible, inaccessible, active, passive, challenge/risk, repetition/safety, hard, soft, natural, people-built, open, closed, permanence, change, private, public, simple, and complex."  The author describes a history of playground and schoolyards.  Also, the book includes examples of playgrounds and schoolyards in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. 

3. Designing Outdoor Environments for Children: Landscaping Schoolyards, Gardens, and Playgrounds, by Tai, Haque, McLennan, and Knight (2006).
The authors describe the process of establishing schoolyards, children's gardens, playgrounds, and sustainable landscapes from design and fund raising to installation and maintenance.  The book includes many case studies such as South Carolina's Clemson Elementary Schoolyard, Pennsylvania's Awbury Arboretum Nature Trails and Wildlife Habitat, and Michigan's 4-H Children's Garden at East Lansing.

4. Learning with Nature Idea Book: Creating Nurturing Outdoor Spaces for Children, by Valerie Cuppens, Nancy Rosenow, and James R. Wike (2007).

5. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv (2005).
The author describes the importance of children's connection with nature.  Children, who lack enough of a connection with the outdoors, are more likely to encounter health problems such as obesity, attention deficit disorder, and depression.  The author describes ways to strengthen children's connection to nature.

6. Children's Special Places: Exploring the Role of Forts, Dens, and Bush Houses in Middle Childhood, by David Sobel (1992). The author describes the importance of 7, 8, and 9-year-old children making enough of a connection to nature.

7. The Power of Play: How Imaginative, Spontaneous Activities Lead to Healthier and Happier Children, by David Elkind (2007).
The author describes that “free, unstructured play” helps enhance children’s scholastic abilities and emotional health.  Meanwhile, modern family lifestyles and school routines are gradually eliminating “free, unstructured play” time with schedules that are booked with structured lessons, organized athletics, and “passive, electronic entertainment.”   The author gives examples of how “free, unstructured play” can be brought back into the routine of family life, into the community, and into the school phenomenon. 

8. Language of Landscape, by Anne Whiston Spirn (1998).
If one is interested in learning about language, it may be useful to know that human languages originally developed from the landscape.  Furthermore, landscape itself can be read to learn important information.  Having noticed that many modern people have forgotten how to read the landscape, the author created this insightful book to encourage people to get reacquainted with the language of landscape.

9. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau (1854).
The book is an autobiography of the 2 years that Thoreau lived self-reliantly in nature in the area of Walden Pond, MA. He built his own house, grew his own vegetables, fished the wild fish of Walden Pond, etc.  While in the wilderness, he gained many deep thoughts and wisdoms. He wrote about his enjoyment of the health, freedom, and practical things that he experienced while living in the wilderness. He wrote about the splendor of nature, its wildlife, seasons, beauty, etc. Also, he provides critical thoughts on American education, colleges, economics, industry, factories, high-technology, and various social problems of modern advanced civilization. Although it's a 150-year-old book, Thoreau's thoughts are still very relevant to today's world. Walden can be read on the web at thoreau.eserver.org/walden00.html

10. Primitive Skills and Crafts: An Outdoorsman’s Guide to Shelters, Tools, Weapons, Tracking, Survival, and More, by Richard and Linda Jamison, 2007. 

11. The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays, by Anthony Aveni (2003). 
The author wrote about how culture, holidays, religion, science, language, art, architecture, music, and sport are each interconnected to each other and with nature.  Anthony Aveni also wrote about cultures connecting to nature in his other books such as "Conversing with the Planets" (1992) and "Stairways to the Stars" (1997).


Books on Education (in General)

May Education Flourish!

12. Walking on Water: Reading and Writting Revolution, by Derrick Jensen (2004). 
Jensen suggests several ways to conduct a class to make classtime inspiring and useful to students and to make writing assignments inspiring and useful to students. Jensen has many critical thoughts on how conventional classes are run; he thinks that conventional class routines make education boring and worthless. Thus, as a teacher, Jensen tried out new ways to conduct class to help make education more fun and more useful. Jensen wrote about his teaching successes and failures to improve future education.

13. The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling, by Rachel Gathercole (2007). 
This book is a helpful summary of the many diverse benefits of homeschooling. Not only does the book cover the social benefits of homeschooling, but also a broad range of the diverse benefits of homeschooling. Homeschooling has many benefits: social benefits, cultural benefits, environmental benefits, family benefits, health benefits, economic benefits, benefits of freedom, time flexibility, artistic benefits, spiritual benefits, and many more benefits to homeschooling. Homeschooling is the best education for children.

14. The Underground History of American Education, by John Taylor Gatto (2000).
It’s likely the best book on the American public school system.  The author was an American public schoolteacher for 30 years and seems to care deeply about children and society.  The author explains how, since 1800 and the industrial age, world history, big businesses, modern American politics, physical science, and deliberate social engineering have affected public schools, families, and children.  He covers the psychology behind public education.  He elaborates on America’s current social ills due to public school and displays a meticulously researched history behind it.  The author points out the circumstances which hinder education.  Furthermore, he suggests the circumstances in which education most likely flourishes.  The book seems to touch on all the essential aspects of America’s current public school system.  The book’s text can be read on-line at www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm

15. Take Back Higher Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of Democracy in the Post Civil Rights Era, by Henry Giroux and Susan Giroux (2004). 
The authors are very critical of modern education institutions.  The book focuses on universities' problems, but similar problems lurk in elementary schools and high schools.  The authors warn schools to be careful to not to let big business and corporate corruption take them over any longer.  The authors believe that education should not just be job training.  Furthermore, they believe that graduates should be citizens with more priorities than just being savvy shoppers.  The authors encourage schools to change to help kids learn how to overcome modern racism and the many other social ills including the epidemics of homelessness, poverty, drug abuse, etc.

16. In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization, by Deborah Meier (2002). 
The author had her own children attend public school and has also been a teacher and principal of public schools.  The book has a chapter on parent-school relationships from point of view of each a parent, a teacher, and a principal.  The author is against current state standardized testing and explains why they don't work.  Also, the author suggests that schools work the best when they are small, largely self-governing, and are places of choice.


Books on some Schools in the past

History / Native Americans / American Schools

17. Pick up just about any comprehensive history book on just about any Native American tribe and one can read about the history of how the American government-run school system had affected Native Americans.  For example, Michael Goc wrote about how a school treated Ojibwe children in Reflections of Lac du Flambeau: An Illustrated History of Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, 1745 - 1995, (1995).  Over 100 years ago, the US government stole Ojibwe children from their parents.  The US government held Ojibwe children captive in an Indian boarding school to assimilate them into the supposedly better American culture, the new industrial monotonous one.  At the school, the children were prohibited from practicing Ojibwe traditions, wearing Ojibwe fashions, or even speaking the Ojibwe language.  The school process devastated the lives of children and parents.  The author wrote, "... the boarding school was a low-cost - in terms of dollars.  The human cost - to children removed from parents and to parents forced to give up their children - was incalculably higher."

The American school system put Native American children through extreme separation from parents and extreme isolation from a thriving, unique, environmentally-sensitive, local culture.  Generally, the modern American school system does not rob children from their parents by gunpoint as it had once done with Native American families.  However, today, American public school students are still too much separated from parents and too much isolated from local communities.  For over 100 years, the US government has successfully left no child unremoved from his or her family, his or her local community, and his or her immediate outdoor surroundings and nature.  In education institution, there usually is a little amount (a healthy amount) of isolation and separation.  But at public school, there is too much isolation and separation.  Homeschooling helps children connect to their families, society, and local outdoors. Homeschooling helps keep separations to a minimum. Native Americans used to homeschool their children. Thus, Native American children were once connected to their families, their local society, and to their local outdoors. While the Native American societies were uncivilized and homeschooled their children, the environment, habitats, and natural resources thrived.

18. The Lie of the Land, by Paul Carter (1996). 
This book deals with all 3 issues: education, local outdoor engagement, and native people and their lands.  Carter is an Australian writer, historian, theorist, poet, and artist.  Carter is concerned that society is generally loosing touch with natural landscapes.  He’s concerned that too many natural local uniqueness and meaningful natural diversity, complexities, and beauties are vanishing.  In general, civilized society is taking the native landscape and wiping it clear, removing its deep meanings and existing sounds to produce an artificial place that is shallow, monotonous, boring, and largely ugly.   In his book, Carter describes the lives of some people who were put on missions to colonize the Australian landscape and to ignore the land’s native environment.  Furthermore, Carter explains that, in some ways, these people broke from their colonization missions and became somewhat aware of the local environment; their lives became enriched, momentous, and complex as they engaged with the native surroundings.  “The Lie of the Land” is Carter’s epic written exercise of getting reconnected to the vital, intricate, splendid, local outdoors although we live in an age of disappearing landscapes that are diverse, beautiful, and deeply meaningful. The book was also used in Paul Carter and Charles Anderson’s design studio class, at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, in 1996.  Congrats to Carter and Anderson for taking the time to encourage college students to slow down to see more clearly by diminishing the blur of fast paced modern times, to get back to basics, to question, to think deeply and critically of the design world, and to reconnect to the wonders of native environments.

© 2008-2010 Pocket Pumpkin Press, last updated April 2010
Three Oaks, Michigan, USA