Book Reviews

Outdoor Science Lab for Kids

Liz Lee Heinecke

Trade paper 144 pages

Quarry Books

ISBN 9781631591150

$32.99 (also available as an eBook)


If you are looking to take the next step in your Scouts Canada STEM experience, then this book could be for you. Outdoor Science Lab for Kids, by Liz Lee Heinecke, is an outstanding collection of science activities that can be done outdoors in all seasons. The book is divided into twelve colour-coded categories, and includes everything from driveway and playground physics to garden hose science. With 52 activities to choose from, you’re set for a year of exciting outdoor adventures.

outdoor science

The first step of any great Scouting adventure is to come up with a plan. The introduction of this book outlines a few helpful tips to get you started with your outdoor science lab. Heinecke provides important advice for kids and adults alike drawn from her own successes and challenges as she explored the experiments she used in this book. Her tips on creating and keeping records highlight the different steps of the scientific method, and give a great place to start reviewing your adventures!

Each activity is displayed using a double-page spread, and each one is presented using the same format and categories: Materials, Safety Tips & Hints,
Protocol, The Science Behind the Fun and Creative Enrichment. Everything is described using language appropriate for any age group, and there are tips and hints to give a bit of guidance on how to stay safe and be successful. The science of the activity is even clearly described on the right-hand side of each spread to answer any lingering questions about what you observed. Finally, each experiment has a Creative Enrichment segment that offers ideas that will enhance the experience – such as bringing a UB or black light on a night hike.

With 52 options to choose from, your Section is sure to find a great STEM adventure for your next outdoor meeting or camp. The approachable language, clear instructions and beautiful photos in this book will help you plan, do and review great Scouting adventures all year long.


– Marc Chamberland


Swimming, Swimming

Gary Clement

Hardcover 48 pages

Groundwood Books

ISBN 9781554984497

$18.95 (also available as an eBook)


swimming_swimmingI don’t know how many of you recall sitting around the rock circle singing songs but I do, and when I think about it I remember singing “Swimming, Swimming, in the swimming pool….” with all the actions involved. If you are a Scouter working with Beavers, this delightful book might be a great tool to introduce your Youth to this classic song. Using colourful drawings on large pages, Gary Clement has brought the lyrics to life and tells the story of four young friends who get together on a hot summer day to hit the neighbourhood pool for some swimming adventures that include the breast stroke, the side stroke, and of course, fancy diving too!

The song itself is framed as part of a day long adventure from morning to night, so there are pages the show the main character waking up in bed and getting ready for the day, packing his swimming trunks and meeting with his friends to walk to the neighbourhood pool. So there is lots of quiet leadup for Youth to enjoy before you can break out with full Scouter singing voice for the middle part of the book. Afterward Youth can follow along with the “outro” as the four friends finish up at the pool, stop for a snack, and head home for dinner and finish up the day.

Filled with charming moments about the great pleasures of a classic pastime, this engaging and charming book is sure to inspire Youth with the gift of a great song. And I’m sure it will inspire them to think about the magnificent sport of swimming. But beyond this Swimming, Swimming can also be a great tool for Scouter to use to begin discussing water safety and broaching the subject of an important life skill: swimming.


Swallows and Amazons

Arthur Ransome

Paperback 528 pages

Vantage Children’s Classics

ISBN 9780099572794

$14.99 (also available as an eBook)


swallowsandamazonsWe have always read out loud to our boys no matter how old they were, which is how, even though it wasn’t part of my childhood, I came to know the Arthur Ransome classic, Swallows and Amazons.

Set in the lake district of England in the 1930s, Ransome based the book closely on a family he had taught how to sail one summer. The story follows four children spending their holidays in a cottage on a lake that has the perfect camping island. What follows is the ultimate Plan-Do-Review mission: the children prepare to sail their boat The Swallow to the island where they will set up camp for the rest of the summer.

Adventures follow thick and fast as they encounter a genuine pirate in a houseboat and are confronted by the Amazons – two sisters who introduce themselves by sailing in close and raising the skull and crossbones.

Swallows and Amazons is a quick, light read, suitable for youth in the Cub Scout range. It has just enough detail about camping and cooking over open fires to inspire the imagination, and features one of the greatest sailboat chases I’ve ever read.

A note of caution – the children make frequent reference to “Indians and Savages” throughout the book, so be prepared for a conversation with your child about being respectful to First Nations people, and changing attitudes.

Swallows and Amazons will be made into a BBC movie this fall, and the book can be ordered from your favourite independent bookstore.


– Jason Allen, 47th Hamilton



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