Thursday, June 14, 2007

Super Summer Science

The title is my attempt at creating a catchy phrase for my kids to latch onto and remind them of our plan to deliberately make weekly scientific observations. I love science. I majored in Biology, minored in Chemistry and Health Education and received a 6-12 grade teacher's license. Human Anatomy and Physiology was by far my favorite in college (I know that sounds a little funny); next up came Microbiology and Biochemistry. Then I became interested in Geology slightly, after being hired to teach Earth Science. And it didn't hurt that I met my honey on a Geology field trip. That in itself perked my interest in rocks and minerals and later in gemstones. I was a textbook science lover. Nature study, kitchen chemistry, science related read alouds, none of those things were part of my childhood. If someone would have asked me what is science? most likely I wouldn't have had an answer, until the fourth grade when Mrs. Hall encouraged me to be the leader in our dissecting group. After one look at that cow eye lens, I decided then and their that Biology would be my major in college. No one else had ever gone to college in my family except for an aunt who went for 1 or 2 years without graduating. Now she's a registered nurse working with kidney dialysis patients. But I knew that college was for me. I loved textbooks. I loved regurgitating memorized bits of info at test time. Fast forward thirteen years and I became a science teacher who still loved textbooks and knowing something just for the sake of knowing it. Most of my 7th and 9th graders did not share my enthusiasm. I needed to think quick and find ways for them to make real life connections with science. Fast forward another 5 years, our children are 3 and 2 and I'm very pregnant. Preschool, Kindergarten it was all approaching much faster then anticipated. I'd heard of homeschooling, but didn't know much about it. Checking out everything on homeschooling our library and inter-library loan offered, I read and read and read. Then I talked and talked and talked to my husband and finally he was convinced that homeschooling might work for us. Fast forward another 6 years and we're at today and other than Math, textbooks are for the birds. There are so many wonderful resources, why read dry, compartmentalized textbooks? So on to Super Summer Science. This past year we did work through Behold and See 3. Mostly we used it as a guide, just to make sure we were hitting all the important topics. I've found that most science textbooks assume that elementary aged children are having their absolute first encounter with science when reading/being read to from their text. So wrong, kids use science everyday without knowing it. Bubbles (surfactants), merry go rounds (centrifugal force), tub time (density of objects), eating snacks (human physiology) and the list could go on forever. Science is more fun to do than it is to learn about. It seems I've come the full circle. Back in fourth grade I was doing science with Mrs. Hall and now I'm doing science with my kids. So what is Super Summer Science? Basically it will be a weekly list of how we found science when we weren't even looking. Actually some days it will hit us over the head and other days I will have specific ideas I want to introduce to them so I will sneak it in when they're not looking. Pretty tricky, huh? So here's today's list.

  • Lee released Tordy the turtle, completely scrubbed the terrarium and readied it for the next toad to cross his path.
  • Lou helped me plant tomatoes and we talked about germination and pollination.
  • Grace attended a 2 hour Horse Science class at an area horse stable sponsored by the UW-Extension.

  • We all witnessed the miracle of life by visiting and holding (oh he's so cute) the newest cousin in the line up.

  • Lee checked all his toad houses for signs of visitors.

  • I read Pick, Pull, Snap! Where Once a Flower Bloomed by Lola M. Schaefer, a lovely book focusing on the fact that before any fruit or vegetable is beared, a flower bloomed. We discussed pollination by bees and wind and then went outside to look at the cranberry bloom. Here's what we saw:

Cranberry Bloom

More Cranberry Bloom

Diamond the Kitty

To recap: I will be posting one Super Summer Science idea each week. Of course, there will be so many other observations, but I will post one fun idea each week of the summer. I believe summer is the best time to do science because of the unhurried pace (on most days). Summer days allow for the uninterrupted observation time necessary to develop a love of science. And science is best done outdoors and summer is the perfect season to be outside. Still, school year science has its place, snowflakes and frost patterns come to mind. But check out a few backyard science books from your library and join in on the Super Summer Science. If you have any ideas that were just super fun (Lou's favorite phrase), please leave them in the comment box. Happy observing.