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FIELD NOTEBOOKS by Darcy Pattison


How Scientists Record And Write About Observations

by Darcy Pattison

Pub Date: Aug. 10th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-62-944191-7
Publisher: Mims House

Packed with examples, this children’s book explains how scientists record observations in field journals.

Children in science class who are asked to write down observations in a notebook or journal may wonder how this actually works for professional scientists. This introduction to the subject demystifies the process, beginning by defining the central concepts. Field, for example, means scientists “are not sitting in an office or a laboratory. Instead, they are in a field, a meadow, a cave, or wherever they need to be to make their observations in nature.” Pattison explains the kind of information recorded, such as lists, daily events, narratives, maps, descriptions, and measurements, along with images clarified through captions, labels, or keys providing important facts. The book then turns to 13 scientists from fields including entomology, botany, ornithology, geology, and taxidermy. Each entry includes a photographic portrait and a short biography listing notable accomplishments and experiences and a description of methods, illustrated with relevant images, such as facsimiles of field notes and examples of many kinds of observations. Because the volume focuses on scientists born in the 19th or early 20th centuries, many of the entries are handwritten or drawn, showing that students don’t need fancy equipment to perform fieldwork. In her latest science-focused book for children, the author provides clear, understandable, but not oversimplified explanations in an attractively presented format. The notebook entries make for compelling study, such as entomologist Margaret S. Collins’ observations of a territorial showdown between termite colonies: “She drew a map showing the opening positions, and then new maps as the battle continued,” recording developments over the 40-minute conflict. A final section, “Start Your Own Field Book,” supplies useful tips. But it’s unfortunate that only three female scientists are included—not for lack of historical examples.

An accessible and entertaining introduction to a basic science tool.