Finding out about animals

Our must have basic resources for starting to find out about the diversity of animals on our planet.

My youngest and I are both very interested in animals, so I have started spending more time finding books and other resources that should interest her.

Our approach is fairly informal. But I do have a need to create a framework, in order to satisfy my sense of order and it makes it easier for me to research good resources and books, which as you can tell from my blog is something I love to do! Then if and when my daughter is interested we share them.

For the animal kingdom the obvious approach seemed to be to reflect the evolutionary relationships of animals, and the starting point for this has been the poster that takes pride of place on our living room wall. Produced a couple of years ago for the Open University, the Tree of Life poster is a beautiful representation of evolutionary relationships between living things. We have laminated it so that it will last. A variation on the poster is available on Amazon. My daughter is endlessly fascinated by pictures on this poster and the relationships between the animals. And this prompted me to find more resources for her.

A second essential resource is a good animal encyclopedia. As a child I spent hours reading my one and became extraordinarily proud of knowing about really obscure animals such as the South American Yapok (an otter like marsupial or pouched animal). So I spent a while roaming shops and Amazon looking for a really good up to date book to replace my rather out of date and tattered volume. My criteria were that the illustrations or photographs had to be beautiful to look at, that it be an adult one so that it has enough detail and coverage to satisfy an interested child’s thirst for the unusual, and that it include distribution maps so that we can easily see where a species comes from. The favourite we settled on it was the then current edition of The Encyclopedia of Animals: A Complete Visual Guide. Though we do also like the Natural History Book from DK – which includes rocks, plants and a larger number of species, but lacks the distribution maps.

We also have a copy of the very wonderful Zoo-ology, which I have blogged about before and is a great pictorial starting point for even the youngest child.

We don’t tend to use online resources but a one that appeals to me and I’m keeping in mind for my daughter as she gets older is the very comprehensive and visually appealing Arkive, a multimedia guide to animals, plants and fungi. There are teachers resources, games as well as comprehensive information on each species.

We also have a giant world map that we use to blue tac on things of interest. It has taken me a long time to find the ideal map website for our home education needs but have finally found the solution. These MegaMaps allow you to print out maps on A4 paper and stick them together to create really large maps. We print out pictures of animals of particular interest and stick them on to show where they come from.

For each group of animals I search Amazon and the local library for books to share. Then we reserve and borrow library books and see which ones we like. If there are books from particular series or that come highly recommended and my daughter likes the look of them then we might even buy one! I will post our favourites as we go along.

Coming next – Our favourite resources on the Great Apes