I grew up in Kansas and currently live in Colorado, so ocean science is not a subject in which I have much hands-on experience! My landlocked children, ages 3 and 7, are fascinated by underwater life, though. So I was eager to go through Cindy Littlefield's Awesome
Ocean Science with them.
This colorful, 120-page book from Williamson Books' Kids Can! series is aimed at children ages 7 to 12. The activity book includes an introduction and six chapters covering oceans and seas, waves and currents, shorelines and tide pools, the ocean floor, sea life, and conservation. Sidebars appear throughout the book and give bite-sized, kid-friendly tidbits of related information. Whimsical illustrations, cartoons, photographs, and diagrams give the book a lot of visual appeal.
Littlefield uses a conversational tone in the lessons and shares a great deal of factual information without being dry or too technical. Lessons briefly introduce a topic and then show the student how to complete a related activity or project that illustrates the concept being discussed. Each activity clearly tells what you need, what you do, and what's happening in the experiment or activity. The lessons are engaging and fun to read, and most of the related activities require minimal adult supervision, if any, and use supplies that you can readily find in your home.
One lesson that my daughters enjoyed was "Race a Squid," which used a water-filled balloon and a squirt bottle lid to demonstrate how squids propel themselves through the water. Other activities include submerging your hand in ice water after covering it with a sandwich bag smeared with shortening to see how Arctic animals use blubber, making a model of a baleen whale with a plastic gallon container, and seeing the ratio of the earth's water to land by baking an Ocean Pie.
Q and A sections answer common questions about the ocean and sea creatures, and a glossary of ocean terminology is provided. In addition to covering science, Awesome
Ocean Science incorporates some math concepts, such as calculating ocean depth using sound waves. A discussion about biological classification and an accompanying chart teach readers how to tell true fish from other classes of sea-dwelling animals. "Ocean Gazette" sections show short clippings taken from actual news articles, discussing topics such as the Titanic hitting an iceberg and the Exxon Valdez disaster.
You could go through the whole book for a thorough elementary-level ocean science course, use it for a unit study on a particular topic, or select individual chapters or activities to supplement your regular science curriculum. A topical index is included.
As a secular book, it references millions and billions of years and mentions evolution in a few places, most notably in the lesson about the water cycle. Some families may wish to avoid or discuss that text with their children. Environmentalism is emphasized in several chapters, including discussions of global warming, the importance of recycling, and reducing your carbon output.
Although I appreciated the author's efforts to raise awareness about pollution, ecology, and conservation and to encourage good stewardship of the environment and the ocean, I questioned the way in which she presented some of the material in the "Saving Our Seas" chapter. For example, one experiment asks students to construct a "boom" out of a straw cut into pieces and tied together in a ring with string. Students use the boom with cotton balls, a spoon, and cornstarch to clean up a cooking oil spill in a baking pan filled with water. At the conclusion of the experiment, the text asks, "So now that you see what oil can do to water, what do you think of drilling in the ocean for fossil fuels?" The author's message is clear, yet no other information is provided about how offshore oil drilling is performed, what safety standards are in place to avoid oil spills, or other relevant factors that might reasonably be considered before reaching a conclusion. Elsewhere, kids (referred to as Ocean Ambassadors) are urged to write letters of protest if their city doesn't have a suitable recycling program in place, participate in the International Coastal Cleanup, and support organizations such as Greenpeace by raising money with homemade T-shirts that raise awareness about ocean conservation and protection. I applaud the author's enthusiasm, her commitment to her cause, and her effort to offer practical solutions, but I was put off by her tone at times and found the book's push for eco-activism exaggerated.
I enjoyed the book overall, and the projects simply but memorably reinforce the lessons about a variety of ocean science topics. My kids love doing the hands-on activities, and my older daughter likes to flip through the lessons just for fun! Though not geared specifically toward home educators, Amazing
Ocean Science would be a good addition to any homeschooling library. I plan to keep the book with our other resource and activity books that my older daughter uses for self-directed projects after her daily work is finished. I recently purchased another science book from the Kids Can! series because I was so impressed by the book's educational value and its engaging presentation.