Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summertime Science

The official school year is coming to a close. Samuel finished kindergarten. Amber has 3 spelling lessons to finish. Nick has a few spelling and about ten math lessons before he can officially wrap it up and Emily has 2 spelling lessons and 5 math lessons left to complete. As the seatwork dwindles I find myself loosely planning some open-ended science activities/discussions. Summer is the perfect time to "study" science. We find ourselves outside exploring the natural world most of every day and so much of what we do is linked to science. Watering plants with a garden hose is a good time to make rainbows and discuss colors, prisms, or light refraction. Gardening lends itself to many fantastic learning opportunities: seed germination, plant types (dicots/monocots) insect identification, worm behavior, soil types, animal tracks and sign (those darn blackbirds and rabbits). Keep a supply of magnifying glasses around. Hand them out some morning and instruct the kids to get outside and look at the dewy grass, chances are they'll search for neat things all morning and you can drink your coffee in peace.

Now just say that you turned off your brain when the last of the lessons were completed and you can't think of any ideas on your own, don't fret. The easiest way to study science this summer is by reading books. Simple books, easy books, not textbooks. One of my favorite ways to introduce new science ideas is reading children's books. One of my favorite authors of nature writing is Jim Arnosky. He writes about animals mostly, on many different levels. He has the All About Series which is excellent and has many PreK-K books about ducks, muskrats and other pond animals. I check out piles of Arnosky books from the library and we just read them, usually outside. When we finish reading a book I like to ask, "So, what do you think?" It's amazing the thinks Samuel thinks after a good book. I believe much of his play throughout the day can be traced back to the science books we read in the morning. Don't have time to read? Or you want your older child to listen in but they think the book is too babyish? Well, have them read to the littles. This has many benefits, including, but not limited too: refining their read aloud skills, sibling bonding, confidence in their science knowledge by reviewing previous studied material. I find that giving the older reader a little extra phone time, computer time, alone time, etc. is a great way to entice them to read aloud to the littles.

Another series I love is the Let's Read and Find Out Series. We own a few of these and have read them several times. Each time Amber and Samuel take away something new. If you need ideas for science themed books, I have two favorite resources.

For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann

The Complete Home Learning Source Book by Rebecca Rupp

Often times I'll just go down the list of, for example astronomy books and check out every one in the age range I'm looking for. We won't make a styrofoam ball mobile or create our own constellations. We'll just read and the good ones we'll read again. Then sometime, usually a long time later, one of the kids will ask a question about the size of Mars or the North star and someone will have remembered what we read in that book so long ago. That is success. That is learning. And I don't have any papers or projects to pin up, hang up or pack away.