Back in September, Becca Brewster reached out to me and asked if I would like to review some products for Fiddlesticks Education, a line of printable educational material she creates. As a dinosaur obsessed parent planning to do a lot of home education going forward, I was of course happy to accept.
As mentioned above, Fiddlesticks Education provides printable educational material, mostly covering various aspects of the natural world (though one can find a few items covering other topics as well). Becca Brewster hand paints the original illustrations used in the sets in bright watercolors, which helps lend the sets a friendly, accessible feel. I personally received the Tyrannosaurus, Dinosaur Nature, & Mary Anning sets, as well as several flash card expansion packs: “Dinosaurs” Set 1 & Set 2, the Dinosaur Fossil Set, and Evolution Set. Other prehistoric themed sets I did not personally view include the Pleistocene Wildlife and Prehistoric Reptile Flashcard packs.
The Fiddlesticks Education material is meant to be incorporated home learning activities, supplemented with related books, and even toys and models if you’re so inclined. I haven’t got around to making a proper curriculum for my boys yet, but we have had fun doing the activities together. I particularly appreciate the various “difficulty” levels in some of the sets; the tyrannosaurus skeleton in the Tyrannosaurus set has three different variants that divides into smaller pieces, and the geologic column activity from the Dinosaur Nature Pack comes either fully filled out, with just the labels, or blank, allowing children of varying levels to all work on it.
As the Dino Dad, I happen to have plenty of books and toys handy to tie into these sets. I managed to assemble a fairly complete Hell Creek assemblage to supplement our activities with the Tyrannosaur set, along with a few books to match. I can recommend the tyrannosaur themed books SUE and Pinocchio Rex (which I’ve already reviewed) for all audiences, but for readers interested in slightly more detailed information, I also recommend Saurian: A Field Guide to Hell Creek, a tie-in to the paleontologically-acclaimed dinosaur simulator Saurian.
There are more generalized dinosaur books than I can fit here that I could recommend (you can find my backlog of past reviews here), but for a general introduction to paleontology, Ashley Hall’s new book Fossils For Kids is a fantastic place to start. For the Evolution Flashcards, I can recommend Grandmother Fish, and When the Whales Walked, while for the Mary Anning set, I enjoy Dinosaur Lady and the junior novel Mary Anning’s Curiosity. (Stone Girl, Bone Girl is also a popular book about Mary Anning, though rather prefer the previous two I mentioned.)
I really like the watercolor illustrations Becca Brewster paints for her sets. The light colors give all the material a pleasant, approachable feel, and I appreciate the diversity of subjects illustrated, from obscure fossils to reproductions of dig sites. I know watercolors tend to lend themselves to a looser style, but even within the limitations of the medium, I do feel some of the illustrations could have been ever so slightly more precise. As is often the case, the theropod dinosaurs tend to come up the shortest, though the rest are generally alright.
I did discover one error among my sets: the geologic column activity appears to be missing the Silurian Period among its cut-out geologic labels, so I ended up making one myself. While I was at it, I decided to include the unofficial “Anthropocene Epoch”, a proposed name for the time period we currently live in. While this label seems to be coming into increasing use among scientists, it has yet to receive a precise definition from the relevant geologic societies as far as I am aware, and so has not been officially separated from the Holocene.
While I could quibble about some of the creature designs, ultimately these sets aren’t meant as paleoart but as tools to help springboard education about the natural world. At its own suggestion, Fiddlesticks Education is meant to be utilized in conjunction with additional resources anyway, which encourages kids to discover the more precise details of these subjects on their own (or with some direction from their parents). I’ve done my best to provide some of my recommendations for supplementary materials here, and I could certainly add plenty more if I wasn’t afraid of distracting from the actual product under review here. I am pleased to say I can recommend Fiddlesticks Education as a home learning resource, and I recommend looking at more of my reviews yourself for other ideas on items to pair with them. Happy exploring!
OH! I should mention, Fiddlesticks Education is also directly responsible for one of my most popular tweets of all time, since it was after doing the geologic column activity that my kid created this meme-able moment! Not only did it get over 4,000 likes on Twitter, but it got at least half that much on Facebook as well.