Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Science Curriculum Reviews

Emily poses next to her jello cell.  See the golgi bodies and ribosomes?

Midway through week 10 of our school year and I am ready to review the science curriculum I purchased for our 8th and 7th graders.  First let me say that I've never purchased a science curriculum before.  Having a science background has afforded me the ability to make up my own plans for the most part.  When the kids are in the early grades we mainly read lots of books, watch videos and observe nature.  As they become fluent readers I've had them read from animal encyclopedias, science encyclopedias and other non-fiction science themed books.  We've also done a number of unit studies on different topics such as botany, chemistry, and snow.  Making up my own plans can get quite time intensive and since we're adding another baby to the family this December I decided it would be for the best to have a pre-packaged curriculum for Emily and Nick. 
For Emily I chose Life Science:  All Creatures Great and Small.  I purchased it through Catholic Heritage Curricula where it was recommended for 8th graders.  This is not a flashy text.  The only color is on the cover, otherwise the entire book is in black and white.  I don't find that to be a bad thing and Emily hasn't commented on it either.  The book contains 25 chapters, all typical to any life science text:  measurement, cells, fungi, the digestive system, animal behavior, etc. Each chapter contains a crossword puzzle, written information, drawings, black and white photos, tables and an intensive chapter review.  The review often includes having the student write out all the chapter definitions, draw and label diagrams, answer tons of questions, do measurement conversion problems and more.  The book does come with a teacher guide which I've found helpful.  It gives basic objectives for each chapter, an idea for a hands-on project for each chapter and the answers to all review questions.  One thing I like about this book is that it's contained to just a book and answer key and I haven't had to purchase many extra materials.  So far I think I bought a piece of tag board.  Everything else for the collections chapter we had on hand:  plastic cups, pins, styrofoam.  I also like that it's introducing Emily to a large number of science vocabulary words.  I stress pronunciation and point out word similarities when I can.  For example cyclosis is the swirling motion of cytoplasm within the cell.  Doesn't cyclosis sound similar to cyclone which is rotating winds.  I think this has been an excellent addition to her vocabulary development.  What I don't like about the book is that sometimes the questions are asked using different terminology than the text uses.  Often she finds this confusing and needs my assistance to interpret.  I'm able to do this without any trouble, but I can honestly say if I did not have a science background I would find this irritating and probably pretty difficult.  With all that said, Emily will continue using this text for her entire 8th grade year and I will use it again next year for Nick. 

Nick demonstrates potential and kinetic energy with a super ball.

For Nick I chose Science 7 for Young Catholics which I purchased through Seton Homeschool.  It includes a text/workbook and answer key.  The book is consumable.  Nick likes that he does all his work right in the book, no extra notebooks or binders to deal with.  The book is full of color photos, line drawings, diagrams, tables and graphs.  The book has only 5 chapters:  Aeronautical Engineering, Geology, Rocketry and Space Travel, Physics, and Chemistry.  It's very boy friendly.  The activities have used things like a balsa model airplane, clay, and super balls.  Boys like this kind of stuff and I haven't heard any complaining from him about doing science.  What I like about this book is that it's all together, the chapter readings, directions for activities as well as the lab report forms and chapter review questions are all in this one book.  As with Emily's book if I didn't have a science background and a husband with a degree in water resources and geology some of the directions would seem quite vague.  For example the section on topographical maps was not clear to me or Nick, but once we got dad involved he explained how to draw contour lines.  I also haven't found the answer key overly helpful.  The easy answers are provided, but the more difficult thought questions say:  answers may vary.  Will I use this again?  I'm not sure yet.  It'll depend on the physics and chemistry unit. 
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