Science Beyond the Classroom is a glossy soft cover book of 178 pages with six pages of Index and four pages of Contents. The book is divided into five sections, each with five to eight journal entries after an introduction to the section. The sections include "Beyond the Curriculum: Projects and Challenges," "Beyond the School Building Walls: Using Local Sites," "Beyond the School Day: Clubs and Expositions," "The Family: Take-Home Projects and Family Science Events," "Informal Institutions: Museums, Zoos, and Other Field Trips." The introduction gives an explanation of the book and that it is to be used as a supplement source for outside of school science expansion activities. Designed to help teachers utilize opportunity outside of school time, notably the very same opportunities home schools have in abundance, it is also suited for scout leaders, club sponsors, home schools, and anyone interested in extending science learning. The book is a collection of articles and resources selected from the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) middle school and elementary school journals and it is appropriate for those age groups. Each article begins with an introduction and discusses the importance of the included strategies, often providing specific research and additional links to NSTA articles. The five sections each start with several pages of general explanation of the section and include a list of References and Resources. This is a resource book, parent teachers may use it for ideas for expanding their existing curriculum during field trips, specific interest areas including outdoor activities, and not as a full curriculum source, as it does not include detailed scientific information or textbook material. Additional supplies may be necessary completely dependent on how the book is used, whether for ideas to expand existing curriculum or for building complete experiments with unit studies, note booking, or other subjects for school.
Readers may complete the book cover to cover, but it is more likely you will delve into a given section as it is most pertinent to your situation or desire to improve your science curriculum in a given area. It does encourage "out of the box" thinking with outdoor activities and assignments for connecting with family members as this is designed for traditional classroom school teachers who are confined to classroom environments rather than home school environments that provide a wealth of opportunity intrinsically. Projects should be complimentary to the formal curriculum, as it provides opportunity for children to apply mathematical concepts and skills and should be integral to all of the work in a complete curriculum. Content standards for each article are listed in a box at the close of the activity. The necessary support information is also included for each article and the described activity as well as a Resources list and Internet listings to support the proposed activity. Resources from all over the world are used as well as information from NASA, USPS, local cemeteries, school grounds, Science Fairs, and families. Old earth references are made, although we did not find any specific evolutionary topics. This is a National Science Teachers Association book and will include material generally agreeable to the public school system. Opportunities for math activities are often included as Science and Math are connected in education and will be fairly easy to implement for most home schooling parent teachers. The Science Beyond the Classroom book should be used as a tool to expand the resources available to teachers, including home schooling families, so that families are making the most of their experiences in science as they learn together. Designed for public school teachers, it is adaptable to home school families, although there are instances that are not applicable to home schooling, even they may be adapted fairly easily in most instances.
Advice abounds, as well as links for inquiring about ways to implement suggestions, structure projects, and find step by step instructions to improve science activities for your student. We found it amusing that Benchmarks for Science Literacy wants to create science experiences that are linked to the real world, offering the potential for fostering curiosity and building motivation for learning. These are the very aspects of home schooling many of us enjoy tremendously that are incredibly difficult to reproduce in public schooling environments. The "Capitalizing on Student Travel" article was informative for families considering a prolonged vacation, a year in a motor home, or simply for those continuing home schooling throughout life, whether vacationing or not. The suggestions can be easily implemented with digital photos and a report presented to family and friends after a vacation or as a sharing time for other home school families. This can be a fantastic way to share educational information and memories simultaneously! Information on electronic field trips that are valuable to all home schools is included in the "Hot Spot at Yellowstone" article. Although it then includes old earth references and comments about 16 million years ago that will need to be weeded through to find the true gems of the article, overall it was interesting. We enjoyed the "Breaking the Code" activity as it provides interesting information on mail and the coding system of a postal service. I truly believe that the "Museums as Inquiry Role Models" article will help parents think from a solidly educational planning position. We really liked the geometric scavenger hunt as it spanned age groups quite well for our family of children from broad age ranges. Some information is pertinent only to classroom or school environments, but as this is a book to be used by the teacher, it is fairly easy to sift through such unnecessary material. Lists of steps and lists of questions are provided for some of the discussed activities, helping families more easily implement the suggestions. I must also note that I was thankful that the book is not bursting with old earth references or evolutionary content, as I had expected with a public school resource item.
I opened this book excited to see what the national schooling community felt they had to share with other teachers, from the very first sentence I was set aback, as it was apparent that proofreading/editing had not caught errors. No other error is as blatant as one found in the initial sentence in any written work. From there I kept an open mind as best I could, and it is evident that teachers are interested in helping other teachers and that hearts are turned toward the children they are teaching. Overall, there are ideas to be found and useful material within the Science
Beyond the Classroom book, but I believe this book may have been more necessary twenty years ago when the home school community was starved for curriculum and resources. Today, most families will find science curricula and resources more to their liking from the home school community, rather than working through material designed for larger classroom environments. Some information is simply not applicable to home schools, like the "Have a Safe Trip" article, or includes information most home schools know very well. Others, like "More than Just a Day Away From School," will help families think about their experiences away from home in a new light so they use them more productively. Thinking from a home school mindset will also change the meaning of some of the articles. The Science Night article is not about Science activities dependent on night skies or darkness, a list of interesting activities is provided, but details for completion will need to be found elsewhere and a night sky is not necessary. This article is all about family involvement and how to draw families into a classroom for an evening gathering of science exposure, not at all what we expected by the title alone. I can not stress enough how much this book is written for use by classroom teachers and not multi-age groups found in a home school with the flexibility of heading outside on almost any given afternoon to dive right into an interest or newly found scientific knowledge to inquire further. As this is a book written for other teachers, it also includes comments about parent involvement from a public school teacher perspective, as they desire to help "develop camaraderie" within families and enable parents to take part in the education of their children.
Science Beyond the Classroom may be entirely appropriate as a resource in a Home school Co-op library, or borrowed from your local library if it reaches library shelves. The $20 price tag is reasonable for someone who desperately needs Science curriculum assistance, but I believe that home school families are finding improved science resources every day and should not need to wade through material designed for use in large schools unless absolutely necessary. Many of the activities are wonderful for home school environments and many include activities and knowledge home schooling families already know very well, but unless your family is in desperate need of a few good activities or has a very flexible materials budget, this may not be the book for you. My opinion is that it may help home schools that are just starting out that include a large family, as years of reference use will easily justify the minimal cost of a book that is a resource for a span of all of the elementary and middle school years. But for families who are seasoned veterans of home schooling, much of this book will be repetition. Science
Beyond the Classroom may provide seasoned home schools with new ideas or a fresh look at science activities in the real world, but only if a school budget allows. Our copy of Science
Beyond the Classroom will be well used as we have two more children still to go completely through all of the elementary and middle school years, but only as a resource book drawn from when I am left dry with no ideas at all. The inclusion of old earth attitude, classroom environments, and the lack of editing concern on the part of the publisher from the very first sentence, leaves our family wanting more from this book. As a resource tool on a borrowed basis among many home schools it will provide ideas that can be applicable to home schools easily enough, but only the most expanded home library will need to purchase this resource for permanent use.