Learn About the World! Book Review: Heart Tours

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I've got an excellent resource to share with you today. Stephanie Scott has written an incredible series of books that teach kids about the world. Called Heart Tours, these books share vital facts about each country in the continent, as well as have fun activities.

Stephanie lived and taught in Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil for several years with her family. During her time as a teacher in Argentina, she had a difficult time finding proper English language books for her students. So, she made her own! The Heart Tours books can be easily used by students who have English as a first or second language. There is a book for each continent, and an activity book as well. Now she teaches in Krakow, Poland, and is updating her books to reflect the changes in the world today. She's lived in more than 20 countries, so she knows all about the world that she is teaching through her books!

Our daughter (7) had this to say about the Heart Tours: "This book is cool! It helps children of all ages to know about different countries. There are recipes, coloring activities, science, and more. You can remember their flags, and how to say something in each language. I bet you could learn bon jour! It means hello in French. I recommend this book - it is a lot of fun!"

We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Stephanie about Heart Tours. Here's what she had to say...


Stephanie Scott



WE:  Please tell us about your book series, Heart Tours

SS: The Heart Tours is a series of 5 books. It consists of Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and North America/Australia, two games, posters, a Teacher’s guide and 30 Info Booklets.



WE:  What led you to create the Heart Tours Books?

SS:  Some of my best friends, Dan and Joy Suttin, who were teachers at a Montessori school in Cambridge, Massachusetts; moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1989. I was invited by them to join in their efforts to set up an experimental multi-grade Montessori school for ages 2 through 17yrs. For the first three years I taught 2nd & 3rd grade. Then I had the Toddler Group (8months to 2 ½ yrs) for the next 2 years.
We had only had a few school books in English for the entire school of over 100 students. Some of the other teachers and I started to produce our own school materials as we couldn’t find any English school books in the country. Our school was run by donations as all of the children had parents who were involved in missionary work throughout the country.
I directed the cultural studies program in English & Spanish for the whole school. This was a program teaching children the social studies/cultural activities of over 150 countries around the world. This was one of the inspirations towards my creating the Hearts Tour activity books. I would choose a country and we would study their culture, languages, dances, cook a recipe and games. From the class we would choose some of those activities to incorporate into our bi-monthly theater productions.
Then a friend donated a large set of National Geographic magazines to the school and I started using them in my geography class.  I soon got the idea to make an activity book to go along with the pictures in the magazines. I compiled information about each country and added pictures from the National Geographic magazines to the stories, showed the class documentaries, and clips from historical movies, drawings of the national dress, a little of each language, games and recipes. The first edition was a humble A4 size on beige newsprint paper. And thus Heart Tours was born! 
A few years later my Dad bought me a computer and I learned Adobe Creative Suite so that I could do the whole process of illustrating, lay-out and producing the books for a large quantity of students.  I updated the original 1990 edition in 2002 and now am updating and adding new activities for the 2010 edition of the Heart Tours.



WE:   Who is your reading audience? 

SS:  My audience ranges from small babies to children 12 years old, to families, schools and educators around the world. My books are E-Books and are easily downloaded and therefore light weight. I have found that for families of the international community, having E-Books are desirable as they don’t take up any precious weight or space in suitcases when parents pack up for another assignment.  They only require a bit of computer space.



WE:  How can educators and parents use the Heart Tours books to teach about the world? 

SS:  Heart Tours can be incorporated into any classroom study course or as a fun after school project. Trips to art, science and transportation museums, farms, cultural activities in your town, to a farmer’s market, airport, train station, a classical concert, samples of famous literary works such as Shakespeare, Austen, Sir Walter Scott, etc can be included in the course. Learning about ticketing from a travel agency, collecting pictures from travel magazines etc can also bring the Heart Tours to life. I use lots of travelogue documentaries and clips of historical movies and national music to bring to life the books.



WE:  Why is it important to teach kids about the world?

SS:  Teaching children about different cultures opens up their eyes to the world around them and helps them to be understanding and more tolerant of other’s beliefs and ways of life. To have a better world, a more peaceful world, is to know, appreciate and understand the similarities and differences of each other.



WE:  What is your international education background?

SS:  Short List of Long Travels:
USA: Born in California and raised all over the USA. My parents are astronomers so we lived near observatories for the first few years of my life until we finally moved to Arizona and my Dad worked at the University of Arizona as director of Optical and Space Sciences. Then we actually lived in a house in a normal neighborhood. No more observatories! I graduated from Palo Verde High School in Tucson, Arizona.
My travel education started when I left the USA and traveled to Europe and then on to the rest of the world. There is so much that you can learn by meeting people, teaching, talking and traveling, that you can’t get from school.

Here is a short rundown of my travels and education:
England: An Irish friend of mine introduced me to the Montessori Method. I received hands-on experience by training with her.
Germany: I put my practical experience to work by setting up a Montessori pre-school for 4-6 yrs olds and a Baby Group.
Italy: Met my husband in Florence, Italy. I started to raise my little family here. I assisted in another setting up of a Montessori preschool school near Florence, Italy and continued studying Montessori through a correspondence course. Next year we moved to Piedmonte where we lived on a farm in the mountains. We made short missionary/volunteer trips all over northern and central Italy. I learned Italian and got to study more of the Montessori Method. The grandmothers of my village taught me how to cook the classical Italian cuisine, how to make Italian cheeses and general all around animal care. We had a cow, horse, goat, pig, chickens and ducks. An extra plus was the 10 acres of Barbera grapes, of which we made really nice wine one year. The farmer next door thought we’d enjoy making wine the old fashioned way---stomping on the grapes! It’s so easy to squish a grape on the floor but try it in a barrel with 10,000 or so grapes! They just roll around…and the juice is so cold! It was a very hot October day but the juice was freezing! My legs were purple for over month before the stains finally succumbed to the soap and water treatment.
Southern France (Avignon & Pau): Raised my little 3 kids. They were fluent in both French and English. (Now they speak several more languages between them, such as Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Croatian, and Bosnian.)
Spain: 1 month travel from Barcelona to Lisboa, Portugal, which was just recovering from the communist revolution they had in 1976. I remember the long lines at the shops for food every day. There were only 2 veggies we could get, none other existed: grellos (a bitter weedy looking thing) and squash. There were very long lines for meat. We could only afford fat and bones with beans. We couldn’t wait to get back to France!
Luxembourg: (although it was a landing at the airport, 1 train stop of 1 minute and then you are over in France before you can blink an eye! The same goes for Andorra.)
Iceland: a snow storm in New York so our flight went to Iceland for 3 days all expenses paid by Icelandic Air! We had a wonderful free tour of the island during the winter.
Paraguay: My husband had a computer job, and I homeschooled my 4 kids.
Argentina & Brazil: Worked for Treasure Attic video series creating activity booklets to go with the videos, in 3 languages, Eng, Spanish and Portuguese.
Thailand: I worked at a publishing house, Aurora Productions and homeschooled 10 kids from 6yrs to 14yrs.
Bosnia: As a volunteer with “Balkans Relief Mission” where I taught 20 kids to speak English through computer, art and music classes. I also volunteered at “Suncoret” Sunflower, a center for children ages 9-16. I taught art and dance.
Slovenia- “Sonce v Srcu” –Sunshine of the Heart. I taught astronomy and art classes at their center.
Hungary: summer youth camps several times.
Mexico: Educational Consultant for homeschoolers.  Got very creative here as I worked with another artist/author who is French. We created together about 15 readers for young children. After that association I produced about 85 readers and activity books. I am illustrated my Dad’s books on The Solar Odyssey, and The Golden Age of Astronomy.
China: I’ve been in China twice. In 2006, I gave astronomy lectures at Beijing University, and Nanjing Optical Astronomy Observatories.  And last year for the dedication of the LAMOST Telescopes. My parents designed the telescopes and I worked on some of the art work and represented my Dad at the dedication.
The Canary Islands: Twice I attended the planetary nebula (stars that have exploded) seminars sponsored by the European Space Agency and NASA.
Croatia: “Sretno Srce”- Happy Hearts Association in Zagreb, Croatia.
Poland: teaching and creating more stories, readers etc.



WE:  What other books/projects are you working on?

SS:   A. I am currently working on the Hearts Tour 2009 update & Teacher’s Guide book. If I had the funding, I would like to go to some of the countries featured in my books and get good digital photos. The ones I have are not as clear as digitals.
B. Collecting info to start editing for younger audience: “The Saga of Cormac”- an Irish story set in the late 700’s. 
C. “Dr. Klaun”- Some of my colleagues in Croatia asked me to design an activity book for their Dr. Klaun project. They produce what is known as “animations” here in Eastern Europe.  These shows consist of music, balloon sculpturing, face painting, simple magic tricks, and activity book & storybook free-give-a-ways.
D. I collecting and making available a series of magazines of simple art illustrations for painting children’s hospitals, care centers, Senior Homes, etc. It is a fun and rewarding project to offer your time and abilities to hospitals in under developed countries by painting wall murals. It helps by brightening up someone’s life.



WE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

SS:  If anyone has ever wondered whether or not it is fulfilling to teach and meet children and students around the world the answer is certainly worth your while to try it!  So many exciting experiences await you as you step out to touch someone’s life, bring joy to another child, to make that connection with that person. I have never regretted that I didn’t just live in the same town my whole life, but moved often and my children enjoyed the change of scenery and the excitement discovering a new place and meeting new friends.



WE: Thanks so very much, Stephanie! Your work is such an excellent resource for kids (and adults) – making it easy and fun to learn about other cultures and the world. We highly recommend your books to our readers.  Look for another book review soon on her book, Kirsty’s Glen (set in Scotland!).

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