Monday, March 12, 2012

How I Finally Learned to Love Science

I didn't care much for science class when I was in school.  I remember very little about anything science-related from grade school, although I do remember learning about light and prisms in Grade 6.  I had a couple of wonderful science teachers in middle school and enjoyed science more during those years.  In high school I was frustrated by the school's insistence that I had to take Biology and Chemistry as a package deal (I didn't want to take Biology - something about dissections...  ick.), and their refusal to allow me to take Physics until Grade 11.  I really liked Physics and was interested in it, but didn't have a great teacher.  So overall, my impression of science was not all that great.  So one of my concerns as a homeschooling mom involved teaching science - how could I adequately teach a subject that I had never liked much and didn't understand?

Two things happened that changed my thinking about science. First, I realized that the sciences are really a way for us to learn more about God.  Thinking God's thoughts after Him - a similar quote has been attributed to Johannes Kepler, and I'm not sure if he said something like that, but I like to think of it that way.   Second, I found a science curriculum that not only made it easy for me to teach, but improved my understanding and enjoyment of all sciences to the point that I look forward to teaching science, and encourages me to often say "That is so COOL!" and be amazed at God's creation while teaching!  I've even volunteered to teach science classes at our co-op!  A few years ago I taught meteorology and this year I'm teaching introductory physics at co-op.  So I'd have to say my favourite resource for teaching science has been the God's Design series of texts published by Answers in Genesis.  This is the set we've used most recently - Chemistry and Ecology.

We did the two books about chemistry last year, and this year have been studying ecology.  There are so many reasons I love this curriculum!

  • all taught from a Biblical worldview
  • non-consumable
  • adaptable for wide range of ages 
  • very little time needed for teacher prep
  • teaching activities that are fun and easy to do

There are four sets in the series, each with three books.  The God's Design for Life set consists of The World of Animals, The World of Plants, and The Human Body (only book in the series I don't have), and is best for students in grades 1 through 8.  I have taught the first two with students in grades K through 6 or 7, and it was great for the little ones, but I felt that I needed to add some extra research and reading for the upper elementary students, so my recommendation would be more like K-5.  God's Design for Heaven and Earth consists of Our Planet Earth, Our Universe, and Our Weather and Water.  These are perfect for grades 1 through 8.  I have even used some of the lessons and activity ideas to teach a co-op class on meteorology for 9- and 10-year-olds.  God's Design for the Physical World is probably my favorite set.  It includes Heat and Energy, Machines and Motion, and Inventions and Technology.  This set is recommended for grades 3 through 8, but Kennady was in grade 1 or 2 when I we did Machines and Motion and she did great with it.  She didn't understand the mathematical equations at that point, but did understand the concepts and we had a lot of fun with all three of those books.  I'm still not sure why physics is treated like it's so "hard" - or at least it was treated like that when I was in school.  The concepts really aren't that difficult when presented in a practical and fun way, as these books do it!  And finally, God's Design for Chemistry and Ecology, consisting of Properties of Matter, Properties of Atoms and Molecules, and Properties of Ecosystems.  These are also recommended for grades 3 through 8.  I have to say that these books helped me understand and appreciate chemistry as I taught.  I honestly never understood chemistry, even in high school.

My general plan when using these books was to teach two of them in a school year, but we did not do all the activities.  I found that in most cases I already had the materials needed for the experiments and activities, or at least they were very easy to get.  The experiments almost always "worked" like they were supposed to, and they were fun to do.  The teacher's editions are for each set of three books, and include a CD-ROM with printable activity sheets and quizzes for the set.

One of our all-time favorite projects was making an edible volcano during our study of geology.

While studying chemistry, we learned about conductivity of metals...

about how atoms bond together...

and we made our own perfume, which didn't look very appealing, but actually smelled quite nice!

This is an experiment to compare the amount of gas produced by yeast and three different types of sugars.

We made our own soda.

We learned about the chemistry of flavours, especially one of our very favourite flavours - chocolate!

This year we learned about biomes and ecosystems, and did experiments like this one, which demonstrated conditions under which fresh and salt water mix.

We visited a biome near us - the deciduous forest...

and got a bit of an idea what a grassland biome is like...

Do you like teaching science?  Do you have ideas or resources to make it enjoyable and applicable? Add to the comments, and visit the TOS Crew Blog Cruise (this link will go live on Tuesday, March 13th) to get ideas from other homeschoolers. In the meantime, go to the TOS Homeschool Crew blog homepage to see past cruise topics and TOS Crew reviews.


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