Evan-Moor's Science Works for Kids series offers a varied array of topics for students in three different grade levels: K-1, 1-3, and 4-6. This Exploring Space science resource book is intended for students in grades 1-3. If you are looking for a resource that provides structured learning and focuses on concepts along with hands-on activities, you will like this product.
The inside front cover clearly sets out the learning goals. Learning activities are intended to provide practice in the areas of observation, analysis, prediction, comparison, critical thinking, and recording information. Major themes of study include change, diversity, structure, cause and effect, and function. A variety of concepts are covered, including the Earth as part of a solar system, stars, and constellations. The learning plan is intended to correlate to "State Standards," and a website is provided for you to check how the activities in this resource book correlate to your state's standards. That is pretty nifty if you are required to report on such information or if you simply like to know how the learning activities in your homeschool match your state's requirements.
Evan-Moor seeks to provide a science resource that is "appropriate and doable." By "appropriate," I think it means the learning activities and information match the intended age/grade level. "Doable" refers to the book's high-interest, hands-on, teacher- and student-friendly materials. The content of the lessons and the pages in general are very well organized and clear, having a good balance between printed information and white space. The font size is large enough to read easily, and the book is easy to navigate. You may reproduce materials in the book for your own use or for a "single" classroom.
The step-by-step activities require students to interact with the information they are learning. Students will be recording their learning in a variety of ways: a logbook, record sheets, minibooks, and task and picture cards. All these resources are of good quality and are visually appealing. The lessons are designed to be stand-alone; you may choose to work through the book or select only those lessons in which you are interested. The lessons are called "concepts."
Here is a breakdown of one "concept," "Each planet in our solar system has unique characteristics." First, you are directed to engage students in a discussion of what they already know about the planets in our solar system. Next, you work with students to prepare a chart of the planets and look in a book to find some basic facts to record about each one. Then write a definition of "planet" in the logbook. Now you are directed to watch a video and/or search the Internet for more information to include in your chart. The next section directs you to make a minibook; reproducible pages are provided. In the following section, you are to reproduce several pages from the resource book for each student. Students are to color the planets and record the facts they found in the book and on the Internet.
The next learning activity asks students to cut out a large sun and the other planets. Different students are to hold these representations so that the sun is in the middle and the other planets are orbiting the sun. Other "astronomer" students are to observe how the planets revolve around the sun. This might be a fun kinesthetic activity in a classroom, but it probably wouldn't work as well in most homeschool families without some modifications.
The last activity involves making a model to show the relative distance of each of the planets from the sun. Materials suggested include construction paper, tagboard, clothespins, a clothesline, a measuring tape, and a ruler. This looks like a fun activity that would be easily adaptable to whatever materials you might have around the house. This "concept" covers 4 pages, not including the reproducible pages.
After looking through the activities, the resources provided, and the teacher involvement required, I can recommend this resource to fellow homeschooling families with a few considerations. First, this resource definitely has a classroom feel to it. Having worked in a classroom myself, I can see how the learning activities lend themselves to large group discussions. Second, there is some inconvenient teacher preparation required. There is a certain point at which if you need to make copies, it makes sense to make 30 (for a classroom of students) rather than 3. Third, if you value the living book kind of learning, this resource alone does not provide that. It certainly would provide a very nice balance to reading good-quality books about space.
Having said that, I feel the $12.99 price is a good value for the quality of the material and information provided. It is a resource I would use to study space in conjunction with other good-quality reading material. I probably would not do all of the activities, but I think my children would enjoy at least a few of them. In addition, this book would make a fine resource for a science co-op.