Naturalist's Apprentice Books: Exploring Unsung Naturalists and Inspiring Young Readers
Delve Into the History of the Founders of Natural History
As a naturalist I've always prided myself in being self-taught, then going to school, later to teach, and then continuing my learning through teaching. However, I was never taught much about the people that made being a naturalist a possibility. There are many, many unsung heroes that contributed to the study of natural history that we have never been told about. Do you ever recall learning about the first woman to scientifically study aquatic invertebrates, or learning about one of the first Native American wildlife biologists and doctors, or maybe hearing about a famous African American entomologist? In the history of science, these important people are often glossed over. If you're like me and countless other naturalists, you were probably never given a history of your own natural history interests. This is why I want to share with you a wonderful series of books called the Naturalist's Apprentice Series by Michael Elsohn Ross.
Although styled for young adult readers (5th-8th grade), the text and information was fascinating. The author has chosen little-known, but important, naturalists who contributed to the foundation of biological and natural history understanding. He then tells their story from their early interest in nature as children to their passing.
Interspersed with this narration are excerpts about the plants, animals, fish, minerals, or birds that the naturalist studies, and tips for how young naturalists could undertake their own nature studies. The stories are quite gripping, and I couldn't put each book down once I started. The author uses wonderful historical photographs, and the illustrators (Laurie A. Caple and Wendy Smith) bring the books to life with vivid color drawings and illustrations.
There are only eight books in the Naturalist's Apprentice Series, published between 1997 and 2000.
- Pond Watching with Ann Morgan
- Bird Watching with Margaret Morse Nice
- Wildlife Watching with Charles Eastman
- Bug Watching with Charles Henry Turner
- Nature Art with Chiura Obata
- Fish Watching with Eugenie Clark
- Flower Watching with Alice Eastwood
- Exploring the Earth with John Wesley Powell
I haven't seen anything else published in the series since then, though Michael Elsohn Ross has an extensive list of other nature books on Amazon, including some of the great "ology" books like "Spiderology" and "RolyPolyolgy." I wish there were more of the Naturalist's Apprentice books. They are a wonderful resource. I would highly recommend collecting all eight of them. They would make a wonderful supplement to a child's library, and a great addition for educators who need to meet the Common Core standards.