I didn’t quite plan it this way, but somehow the last two science books we read for our third grade study of animals were about places we have visited. And, wow, it’s really neat to read a nice picture book explaining what science is going on behind the scenes in a place you’ve actually been.
Caring for Cheetahs by Rosanna Hansen
This wonderful book is about the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, where we had the pleasure to visit last year during our Africa trip. It was really out in the middle of nowhere (even for Namibia) but it turned out to be a very worthy detour for us. If you’re not lucky enough to visit, the book has amazing photos and a great text that tells how the CCF rescues cheetahs and then rehabilitates them to the wild whenever possible. To help the farmers who feel most threatened by the cheetahs, they also breed and train special dogs to protect their livestock against the cheetahs. One cheetah they keep that isn’t wild is used to introduce children and others to cheetahs as a sort of ambassador. That cheetah, Chewbacca, has his story in this book, along with several others, such as about an emergency surgery on another cheetah and the rescue of a baby cheetah.
Wild Horse Scientists by Kay Freydenborg
This book takes place in Montana, where there are thousands of wild horses roaming the mountain ranges, and Assateague Island, where about a hundred horses live in a tiny strip of land off the coast of Maryland. Assateague is a popular camping spot for people in our area and we’ve had the pleasure of visiting there too. Our most vivid memory is of a small group of wild horses that refused to be chased away and ate an entire bag of our marshmallows, including the plastic wrap, then used my chair to blow their noses. Don’t worry, I decided to get rid of the chair.
This is from the excellent Scientists in the Field series. Like many of the books in that series, the science gets a little complex for my kids, but is still very much worth reading. Along with talking about the ecology of Assateague, the evolution of horses, and the anatomy of wild horses, the main focus of the book is a scientist’s two decades long quest is to find a way to humanely limit the population of the wild horses through birth control. We had a number of good discussions about population growth and reproduction stemming from this book.