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Great Civil War Projects You Can Build Yourself (2005) by Maxine Anderson

Tools of Timekeeping: A Kid's Guide to the History & Science of Telling Time (2005) by Linda Formichelli and W. Eric Martin

Tools of Navigation: A Kid's Guide to the History & Science of Finding Your Way (2005) by Rachel Dickinson

All three books are published by Nomad Press of White River Junction, Vermont. They are a wonderful example of how to clearly organize information about history, technology and science to appeal to the curiosity and learning capabilities of gifted students in grades three through middle school. Each book gives the historical background for the topic-at-hand, and offers many exercises that will entice them to dig deeper into the history of the Civil War, Timekeeping and Navigation. The attractive illustrations and photographs have been carefully chosen to enlighten students about each topic.

The numerous exercises in the Civil War book involve designing musical instruments of the time, making flags, constructing ship models including a paddle-wheeler, building a telegraph, and making dolls and fashion accessories of the period. It should be emphasized that these exercises set the stage for in-depth and hands-on explorations of a wide range of cultural and technological artifacts from both military and civilian areas.

The Timekeeping volume provides the historical background for calenders and clocks beginning with the ancient Egyptians, Mayans and Romans. Then, it presents exercises on constructing sundials, explains the history of time telling after dark, and describes various devices used through the ages to tell time. Additional activities such as making a klepsydra, sand glass, star gazing instrument, sundial and pendulum are interspersed within these explanations and descriptions. Other important topics in the Timekeeping book are: the study of latitude and longitude, history of time zones, the use quartz crystals to tell time, and the development atomic clocks.

The Navigation book begins with a fascinating history of this subject including descriptions of ice age navigators, and ancient navigation methods using constellations and the North Star. The author gives detailed information about techniques first used by European explorers, e.g., compasses and the measurement of latitude and longitude. Other detailed examples of navigation are discussed in the explorations of the United States by Lewis and Clark and by John Charles Frémont. There are discussions of journeys to extreme environments including African jungles, the Himalayas, and the North and South Poles. The concluding chapters concentrate on modern developments concerned with aeronautics, Global Positioning System (GPS) devices and topographic maps.

These authors - Maxine Anderson, Linda Formichelli, W. Eric Martin and Rachel Dickinson - and the publisher have provided an important service to the gifted education field. By covering fields of knowledge and technology in a stimulating and challenging manner, their books serve as a model of what publishers of educational materials for gifted students should aim for - rigor, intense verbal content, analysis, stimulating exercises and conscientious scholarship. These books also demonstrate that publishers need to identify and cultivate talented and knowledgeable authors if the quality of educational materials for the gifted is going to improve. The Civil War, Timekeeping and Navigation books are excellent resources for an inquiry learning format. The following statements (selected from each book) demonstrate some of the fascinating topics depicted therein:

Excerpts from Great Civil War Projects You Can Build Yourself (2005) by Maxine Anderson

"When the war finally ended in 1865, more than 1.1 million men and boys had been killed or wounded, the South was in ruins, and most soldiers just wanted to go home. Many, though, couldn't forget what they had been through during those five long years, and several years after the war ended soldiers on both sides formed veterans' organizations. . . ." (On The Battlefield, p. 11)

"The Civil War was the first time in American history that photography was extensively used to make a public record of the events that took place. The art of photography was only 21 years old when the Civil War started, but it was already hugely popular in the United States. . . ." (On The Battlefield: Photography, p. 19)

Excerpt from Tools of Timekeeping (2005) by Linda Formichelli and W. Eric Martin

"Like the Egyptians, the Babylonians used the movement of the stars to divide both day and night into 12 equal parts. But the Babylonians, who had already made great advances in arithmetic, went even further by dividing each hour into 60 pieces (minutes), and each of those pieces into 60 even smaller parts (seconds). . . ." (Chapter Two: Here Come the Hours, p. 17)

Excerpt from Tools of Navigation (2005) by Rachel Dickinson

"People around the world had different ways of getting where they wanted to go on the water. For example, experienced early mariners knew that if they sailed in a certain direction for a certain period of time they would find their destination. They could figure out their north-south orientation by observing the maximum height of the sun during the day and the maximum height of the North Star (also known as the polestar or Polaris) at night. This would determine latitude - what we think of as invisible parallel lines that encircle the earth. . . ." (Chapter Two: Ancient Navigators - Braving the Sea Without a Compass, pp. 10-11)

Hands-On Archaeology: Real-Life Activities For Kids (2005) by John R. White. Waco, Texas: Prufrock Press, Inc.

Here is another example of the type of educational book that should be used with gifted students in grades four through middle school. White is an experienced archaeologist and anthropologist. His book teaches the fundamentals of archaeology by having students excavate empty lots of recently demolished buildings. They must engage in the following activities: making careful observations of a site, building a resource library, developing a working hypothesis, pre-excavation research, making an excavation, taking care of artifacts, and writing a research report. The author strives to accomplish a goal of education emphasized by Jerome Bruner (Toward a Theory of Instruction, 1966) - educating students to think and approach problems like a scientist. "This book was inevitable; it was only a matter of time. Actually, if the truth be known, it is probably a little late in arriving. More than 20 years of teaching archaeology to youngsters in primary and secondary schools has culminated in this manual. . . ." (p. 1)


Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94): A Gifted Writer Who Triumphed Over His Lifetime Disability

Michael E. Walters

Center For The Study of The Humanities in The Schools

" 'When one turns to Treasure Island, one sees immediately that Stevenson was the professional knowing precisely what effects he wanted and how he was going to get them. Every chapter is shaped and fitted into the general structure like the timbers of a ship.' " Nobel novelist William Golding (p. vi, Introduction, The Complete Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson, Modern Library, 2002).

November 13th was the 155 anniversary of the birth of Robert Louis Stevenson. He was a representative of the gifted individual who was able to accomplish his work despite a serious disability - tuberculosis. This condition caused him to be in a precarious state throughout his life. Yet his giftedness enabled him to write an amazing range of literary works. He also was able to travel throughout the world at a time when traveling was a physically demanding task, and to live a stable and functional life that included a marriage and a meaningful relationship with his stepson.

His range of literary activity include novels that are classics of the English language and world literature. These are Treasure Island (1883), the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and Kidnapped (1886). His collection of poetry, A Child's Garden of Verses (1885), seeks to capture the perspective of a child's experiences, and is considered to be a monumental poetic work for its world view. Stevenson's nonfiction includes travel books about his personal journeys. Some of these are An Inland Voyage (1878) about a canoe trip through northern France, and Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879). He also wrote a travel book about crossing the continental United States on a train, while accompanying immigrants on their way to the great plains - Across the Plains with Other Memories and Essays (1892).

Many of his short stories are among the best in the English language. They clearly show his social and philosophical concerns as well as his narrative talents. The Suicide Club (1878) is about a place where depressed individuals engage in a game of chance. They choose to kill and be killed in a mutual suicide pact. This story deals with depression and whether one should resolve it through self-oblivion. For an individual who was constantly on the verge of mortality, this story was a remarkable milestone in Stevenson's self-discovery. Another story is, The Beach of Falesá (1892), which concentrates on the experiences of native Pacific Islanders and European colonialism. At the end of his life, Stevenson went to Samoa with his family to seek a better climate for his lung problem. The Samoans respected him and they made him a Chief. They called him "Tusitala," Teller of Tales.

Stevenson was influenced by the French essayist, Michel de Montaigne, and the American writers, Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne. He in turn influenced modern writers such as Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene. During his lifetime, he was praised by Henry James and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for having outstanding literary talents. He is indeed an inspiration to all gifted individuals with disabilities.

Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, December 2005 - January 2006