BOOK: Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

I have long had a 1931 edition of the book Handbook of Nature Study (1911) that I treasure, handed down to me from my grandfather. It’s author, Anna Comstock, was always a lover of nature. But she decided to major in English and history at Cornell University. However, she was so fascinated by learning about insects in a zoology course that she changed her studies to natural history. She assisted her husband in illustrating and editing his entomological publications, and would soon start to write her own articles and books. She organized programs to instruct teachers in New York and beyond in the proper methods for nature study. Her legacy, to this day appreciated by many who work to instill a love of nature in their children or students, is that the most important way to teach kids about nature is to take them outside into nature (her book remains in print). I am delighted to see a new children’s book about Anna Comstock and her mission:


Suzanne Slade, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story (Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2017), 32 pp. Illustrated by Jessica Lanan.

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Publisher’s description This picture book biography examines the life and career of naturalist and artist Anna Comstock (1854-1930), who defied social conventions and pursued the study of science. From the time she was a young girl, Anna Comstock was fascinated by the natural world. She loved exploring outdoors, examining wildlife and learning nature’s secrets. From watching the teamwork of marching ants to following the constellations in the sky, Anna observed it all. And her interest only increased as she grew older and went to college at Cornell University. There she continued her studies, pushing back against those social conventions that implied science was a man’s pursuit. Eventually Anna became known as a nature expert, pioneering a movement to encourage schools to conduct science and nature classes for children outdoors, thereby increasing students’ interest in nature. In following her passion, this remarkable woman blazed a trail for female scientists today.

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