While walking through the vendor hall at our local homeschool conference this past summer, I happened upon a science curriculum that I had never seen before. On their table was this giant box of individually-bagged items that immediately caught my eye. I will be honest and say that it is not often that a science curriculum catches my attention. Science can sometimes intimidate me, but this looked unusual so I stopped to investigate.
What I found was a creative, hands-on approach to learning science that also just happened to cover the national science standards.
Science Excursion, Intermediate Science, for grades 4-6, is separated into four different subject areas: Earth Science & Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. One kit will last for three years if you choose to do science once or twice per week. There are 108 lessons in the text and 36 should be completed per year of the three years. The author suggests two 30 minute lessons per week or one 60 minute lesson. Of course some families are geared towards science and they will do more than this. Some families will use this as a jumping-off area and study the subject in-depth with other books. There are many ways to use this curriculum.
Beginning with the note to the parents, she follows this with a list of everyday household items that are not found in the kit (crayons, scissors, white glue, etc.). If you did not choose to purchase the kit for the experiments a second list follows this one detailing the items needed to complete the experiments. I cannot tell you how highly I recommend that you purchase the kit with the experiment components. It is this aspect of the program that makes it totally unique and the most educational for the student--not to mention fun! Following this she has a "Please Read This First" list of safety rules that all students and teachers should read and follow.
Laying the foundation with two lessons entitled, "Thinking like a Scientist" and "The Scientific Method", she encourages the student to begin "finding out" by observing and predicting or concluding and then moves into how a scientist organizes these areas. Even the first lesson has a hands-on experiment with modeling clay. The second familiarizes your student with the Science Lab Report and hypothesizing the end result.
The first section we come to is Earth Science & Astronomy. The author states that the sections in the book can be completed in any order but that "...because of the level of difficulty of some subjects (i.e. physics); I suggest that you start at the beginning and work your way through the text." So unless you covered Earth Science & Astronomy recently, this is where to begin! This section is broken down still further into three separate areas of study: Seasons & Weather, Earth's Structure, Oceans, Solar System, and Stars & Galaxies. There are 19 lessons that cover these areas. Every lesson has a page or two (sometimes three) to read and will often include diagrams, drawings, maps, or graphs to demonstrate some feature of the lesson. For example, Lesson 10 is Earthquakes. There are two pages of reading material, a "Mercalli Scale" that delineates the severity of an earthquake, and then on the following page you do an experiment with marbles, string, masking tape, scissors, and a ruler. Each experiment has the list of materials, the "how to do it" of the experiment clearly explained, and then the results are discussed. Following this is an activity with clay that demonstrates earthquake plates and layers of the earth's crust and what happens to the crust during an earthquake. Every lesson will have at least one activity or an experiment. This one happened to have both!
The second section is Biology that is also broken down into different areas of study. These are: Living Things, Animals, Plants, Ecology, and the Human Body. There are 29 different lessons covering subjects like classification, cell structure, photosynthesis, and the many systems found in the human body. In Lesson 41, Nervous System, your child will be "Testing the Senses" with water, sugar, salt, cups, and their taste buds as well as their fingers.
The third section is Chemistry and is broken down into Properties of Matter, Chemical Systems, and Nature & Uses of Chemicals. The first section covers a myriad of fascinating subjects: mass; volume; density; behavior of solids, liquids, and gasses; pure substances; mixtures; solutions; metals versus non metals, etc. Chemical Systems will cover such subjects as chemical bonding and reactions; endothermic and exothermic reactions; chemical kinetics, acids and bases. The Nature & Uses of Chemicals discusses luminescence; polymers; plastics; fats & starches; detergents & soaps. The experiment for Lesson 82, Identifying Foods with Fats and Starches, your child will do just that with cooking oil, iodine solution, pipette, bread, cheese, cooked egg, raw potato, cooked bacon, two potato chips, scissors, large brown paper bag, black marker, gloves, and goggles!
Science Excursion will conclude with Physics that will cover Forces & Motion, Energy, Properties of Matter (from a physics perspective), Light & Optics, and Magnetism & Electricity. Time and weight; inertia;, center of gravity; Newton's Laws of Motion; types, sources and transformation of energy; electromagnetic radiation; colors of light; refraction and interference; electricity and electrical circuits as well as motors and generators will be studied and tested.
The full curriculum kit comes with the following: A Student Text, Tests & Answer Key, and the Science Materials Kit. The Student Text has already been explained above. The Tests & Answer Key contains tests for the student and answers to the tests as well as answers for the activity pages found in the Student Text. The Materials Kit has everything you need to do the experiments except perishable items and household objects as detailed above. The total for all the components at the time of this review is $178.00.
There are a few minor things I think could be added to make this curriculum a little easier for the busy homeschool mother to use. One would be that the lists for activities and experiments included in the kit and student book be combined in some way for ease of use. A separate list by lesson that gives all the specific items needed for the experiment or activity in that lesson and whether they are located in the materials kit or whether these are to be found on the list of materials not available in the kit (like water, drinking glass, etc.). This was the only thing I found a little confusing in the student book. All it really resulted in was taking a little more time to see where the experiment components were located, but it would be helpful if that was a little clearer. It would also be nice to have the kit materials list in alphabetical order.
Regardless of the minor issues mentioned above, this is over and above one of the most exciting new products on the homeschool science market. It is thorough in its scope and sequence, meets national science standards, is hands-on, and incredibly interesting. I am thrilled to have found this gem of a company and look forward to seeing what they produce in the future.