The folks at University of California at Berkeley have a very home-friendly line of math and science products. Although designed for the public school environment, these books are all readily adaptable for the home. High in discussion and analysis, the books are well laid out in sessions, and you are provided time frames, supply lists, and very easy to follow step-by-step instructions. If you are looking for comprehensive science and math units that can serve as a spine for many states' scope and sequences, GEMS may be your answer.
Non-religious in content, these publications don't go "over the top" with references to evolution either. In fact, of the nine books I looked at, I didn't find anything objectionable from my Christian perspective. The books I reviewed had to do with various aspects of physical and chemical science. The topics vary widely and are all really interesting. Most are aimed at second through sixth grade, but there are some for younger and some for
Canadian customers can order from Spectrum Educational Supplies at 1-800-668-0600. You should know that the GEMS folks supply the guides only. The supply lists are given, but if you want to purchase a whole kit, you will have to contact the home division or check at a local science toy store. The kits are produced as "experimental toys" and have won many awards for best science toy and top 20 toy. You can find kits for the Oobleck book, Mystery Detective, Messages from Space, and Jiggly Gems. The guides that I reviewed are as follows:
OOBLECK - what do scientists do? Four sessions follow the "discovery" of a substance from another planet. Students will create a plan, and following sessions delve a bit deeper into the actual work a scientist does as he seeks answers to the unknown. For grades four and up.
FINGERPRINTING - three sessions, each 30-60 minutes long. Session 1 - making fingerprints, session 2 - classifying fingerprints, and session 3 - solving the crime: The students are to work in teams classifying types of prints so this would be a great co-op activity. This guide has a fun session where the students use what they have learned to "solve" a crime, given suspects' prints. Excellent list of reading choices including mystery novels, and some fun follow up activities.
THE REAL REASON FOR THE SEASONS - sun and earth connections for grades six through eight. This guide includes a CD-ROM with extra materials and has been approved by NASA. Eight sessions, all about how the sun affects the earth, how the earth orbits, temperatures around the world, days and nights examined, and the angles of sunlight during different seasons. This is a great book! The CD has videos of earth rotating and other neat sights. It has slide shows and a planetarium program called Starry Nights. Also lots of NASA information on future missions and work the organization is doing.
COLOR ANALYSIS - investigating light and color for grades five through eight. This guide studies, in four sessions, properties of light and color, color filters, and diffraction gratings. Students will work on observing, comparing, describing, classifying, inferring, predicting, recording data, and drawing conclusions. You will need to purchase red and green filter gel pages and diffraction grating to make your own color analyzers. These are available at most scientific supply stores or theater supply stores, but do plan ahead and get the right stuff because this is SO cool. This guide also has very cool plans for making secret message sheets that can only be read with the analyzers the students make!
LIQUID EXPLORATIONS - grades one through three. This includes studying the properties of liquids and starting youngsters with observing, describing, and drawing conclusions. Designed for early elementary grades, this guide embarks on a discovery-based journey to find out what "wet stuff" really is and if all liquid is the same. There are five sessions, each between 20 and 40 minutes. A complete class kit is available for this guide from www.sargentwelch.com, but it has supplies for 20 or more! If you are into co-oping, this is the way to do it!
CHEMICAL REACTIONS - for grades six through 10. It explores the evidence of chemical reaction and the law of conservation of matter, as well as chemical safety. One or two sessions plus suggested follow-ups. There are advance chemical purchases you will need such as calcium chloride, so plan ahead for this one as well.
BUBBLE-OLOGY - grades five through eight This guide is really fun. Students touch on everything from light and color to aerodynamics and surface tension. This one is all about physics and chemistry and it is SO cool. Graphing bubbles, Bernoulli's principle, and many cool things to discuss. There are six activity sessions with great literature connections, outlines, and assessment ideas to make sure they "get it." This is my favorite guide so far.
DRY ICE INVESTIGATIONS - for grades six through eight - this is a large guide. It leads the students to learn how to choose questions properly. They plan and conduct their own investigations. Kids love the "mystery" of dry ice and so are keen to explore and discover. In Canada we can purchase dry ice at our local superstore, but you can look in your local yellow pages to find a source close to home. The comments made by teachers who did this book were all in agreement that dry ice can be finicky and hard to keep, but the results are SO worth it. Everybody loves this guide. Eleven sessions, and the students adore the activities. The authors do state that in their eight years of teaching this unit, they have never had a reported injury. It is just cool science, lots of smoke, and fun!
TREASURE BOXES - grades Kindergarten through third, all about classifying through precious collections for little ones. Students will learn to classify, identify, even make Venn diagrams, and treasure maps and learn to follow them. The kids become explorers, scientists, mapmakers, and more. Six sessions that makes an excellent introduction to science vocabulary and procedure. This would work extremely well as a co-op activity.
There you have it. Lots to choose from and lots of fun to have. These are great little units to fill in those off weeks or space at the end of the year. Enjoy!