Sunday, April 27, 2014

Weekly Resource - Options for Elementary Science

In a truly classical sense young students can't "do" science.  They are encouraged to observe nature, name what is around them and enjoy the wonder and awe that comes with it.  So, in some ways the best science "curriculum" might be to keep a pet or grow a garden or do both.  But, if you feel like you need something a little more substantial than that, here are a few resources.

Nature Study 

CM followers and some other classical groups really encourage lots of nature study.  Naming what is around you, drawing it, keeping a notebook of your findings can encourage a love of science that will last a lifetime. Here are a few resources that can get you started with that approach.

Handbook for Nature Studies (or online) - this mega volume by Anna Botsford Commstock is often what people recommend to give you some background information about the animals you will encounter.  This is really background information for the parents so that they can talk about or look up what they are finding.

There is a series of supports for this book that  can help you make it more manageable.  It started with the idea of the challenge to go outdoors for an hour a week and just see what happens.

Here is another more general way to use the book - breaking it down by species group and then focusing on each one.

The Ultimate Guide to Nature Study from another homeschooling mom might provide some encouraging thoughts as well.

Book Series 

One Small Square is a series of books that explores different biomes and provides experiments, observations and ideas about how to explore nature.  Themes include the night sky (okay, not a biome), the seashore, your backyard, etc.  These books can often be found at the library.

Christian Liberty Nature Readers - This series of books provides age appropriate reading material about different aspects of nature.  There are 5 levels that correspond roughly with reading levels for those grades. They are actually based on a series that was written in the early 1900s.

Thorton Burgess (librivox) or Clara Dillingham Pierson (librivox) both write books that explore the habits and lives of animals in a way that is friendly  - especially to early elementary students.  Burgess wrote over 26 books that feature animal characters, the links above are just ones that are free to give you a taste of their style.  Ambleside uses Burgess' Bird book and Animal book in Year 1 and Year 2.

Jim Arnosky books cover a range of nature topics and are accurate and include lovely illustrations.  He actually is a nature illustrator and has books on the topic as well.  Many of his books can be found at the library.  Crinkleroot is a series that introduces children to common birds, fish and other animals - many of them might be out of print but your library might have them.

Resources for Experiments 

Maybe you don't want to pursue nature studies or you feel like you need some experiments to try out around your house.  

Magic School Bus Science Kits - you are probably familiar with the books and maybe the video series (which can be found on netflix) but they do have a series of contained experiments as well.   The Young Scientists Club allows you to order experiments that have everything you need to do to perform them.  They often come up as a discount on homeschoolbuyerscoop.

The Happy Scientist has lots of free videos and experiment ideas that cover the range of science.  There is also a subscription fee (about $20 - unless you get it half price off of homeschoolbuyers coop). that provides more videos and experiments.  If you want your kids to see someone excited about science but may not want to do EVERY experiment at your house - this might be a good option.

Janice VanCleave books are also a good option if you want to find a few experiments on a certain topic with your children.  She covers a whole range and they can often be found at the library or half price book store.  Many more formal curricula use her experiments as part of their program (Classical Conversations, Elemental Science, etc.)

Full Curricula

Maybe you do want something more than just nature study or random experiments on a theme, if that is the case there are more options beyond Apologia.  As with all studies you need to discern your comfort level with their approach to the creation/ big bang issue.  I am giving you resource ideas and you get to discern what might best fit your family.

Elemental Science - this group actually provides 3 different approaches to science education.  The first is more classical in the sense that you use a resource book (normally DK) and then do a lap book to record your findings.  They also have the Sassafras Twins series which uses more living books and has you following the story of these twins as they discover science themes (they are scheduled to create 8 books to cover one semester a piece).  The last group are unit studies - like human body, plants, etc.  They obviously offer lots of choices to meet the approach that best matches your approach.

Noeo Science - This curricula is produced by Logos press which follows a classical approach to education.  They have three areas of study - biology, chemistry and physics and three levels - early elementary, later elementary and middle school.  This provides a whole package which includes that resource books and they use experiments from the Young Scientist Club mentioned above. This seems like a more open and go approach - you can look at their teacher manuals for each subject to get a good idea of what is covered and the resources that they use.

R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey (read, explore, absorb and learn) - These lessons provide a read aloud story written by the authors to introduce the subject, experiments or activities to support learning and then a page to document what you have learned.  Level One has life, earth and space and chemistry.  Level 2 currently only covers biology.

Real Science For Kids -  They actually provide two different approaches to science.  The first is a series of books that looks at a particular discipline and includes a textbook, lab workbook and teacher's manual for the core subjects of chemistry, physics, biology, geology and astronomy.  The second is a series of grade level readers that cover all five of those subjects (in a more spiral method) over the course of one year.  So you can either spend a year studying one subject area or cover all five areas each year going slightly deeper as the child ages.   The FAQ page has lots of answers to questions about sequence, deciding between the two approaches, etc.

Memoria Press - They are another publisher of texts that follow a more classical tradition.  Their science program doesn't start until 3rd grade and each year is dedicated to studying one area - astronomy, insects, birds, and trees.  Each level includes a reader and a workbook (based on the books by Arabella Buckley and Julie McNair Wright in the late 1800s (here is a sample of an original book that they have not used).  So this is living books approach.  In middle school they use the James Tiner (his amazon page) series.  In high school they are beginning to use Novare Science.

The Lab of Mr. Q -  This series of textbooks with experiments covers a year of life science, earth sciencechemistry and physical science.  Each set has a separate student and teacher's manual and you can get the whole life science book for FREE so that you can see if it works for you (you can also get the first chapter of each of the other books for free).   This guide also includes steps towards doing science projects if that is something that is important for you.  He also has a lot of interesting lab experiments you can try.

Intellego Unit Studies - Science based unit studies for a variety of topics that are aimed at early elementary, late elementary and middle school students.  They have special studies as well (baseball, dolphins, etc.)

History of Science Through Literature - This is a survey of science history for late elementary aged students using living books.  Even if you don't use the curriculum as it is designed you might want to take a peek at the books they use to support your more "typical" science studies.  There are experiments associated with this program as well.

Resources for Mom 

If you have a general outline of the topics to cover (like you might with Classical Conversations) but want a little more background so that you can talk about the topics knowledgeably you might want to check out these resources.

Novare Science (I have written more about their middle/ high school program) has a reference book for elementary school teachers to help them better understand the basics of physics, biology and chemistry. They have only published the physics book so far, but it is a great resource.   He also has a book that just discusses a Christian view of science education.

Elemental Science also has an overview of science education for parents as well.  This includes some resources to help with science fair activities.

Honestly, this is just the beginning of available resources. I highly recommend that you type a curriculum name and "review" in google to see what others say about in practice or check out what Cathy Duffy says about it.

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