Friday, March 19, 2010

A Blast of Chemistry

In the past two or three years, I have developed a real passion for science. Growing up, I was always good at science, but never really appreciated it as much as I do now. What I am most passionate about is make sure my children and others understand what makes a good scientist. A good scientist questions everything, and then uses the scientific method to reach their own conclusions. That being said, I am very picky about the science curriculum I use with my children.
I recently received "R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey, Chemistry Level 1" from Pandia Press to review. This program is designed for students in approximately grades 2 through 5. R.E.A.L. stands for Read, Explore, Absorb, and Learn. Pandia Press is a family company that publishes nonsectarian science and history curricula in a classical education style. The word nonsectarian can have slightly different meaning depending who you talk to. I do see reference to millions of years on the website.

Now, to get to the meat of the program. Chemistry Level 1 is a full year curriculum doing two lessons per week. I wish I would've had the full year to review it. Since I didn't, we did more than two lessons per week. We are actually up to week 11 according to the schedule in the book. In that month, we have learned a ton. The basic premise of the course is to teach young students about the periodic table and the building blocks of everything. The "book" that arrived, is not really a book. It is really a stack of paper, neatly 3-hole punched. I love that design. It makes it so much easier to copy the worksheets and activities, as opposed to a book that has to be bent and unfolded to try to copy. I also like it better than the e-format because I can take the book to wherever we are rather than being tied to the computer or having to print extra pages.
The reading is simple. It is written very story-like and even some poems to help kids remember the information. With every lesson, there is at least one lab or activity of some sort. So far, we have built atoms out of marshmallows, learned how to do chemical tests, made peanut butter play dough, and more. The boys each made an atom book, and are currently working on a notebooking project (kind of like a lapbook) to learn more about the elements. There are also other things like crossword puzzles scattered through the book.
Here are pictures of some of the fun we had.

I love how they included a lab supply list right at the front of the book. Most of the supplies are things you would have around the house anyway. You can also find a link to the supply list here. I did end up spending about $70 at the store, but that also included a few extra items. I also picked up some of the items I already had, just because I was running low and knew I would use them anyway. You wouldn't necessarily have to buy all the supplies at the beginning either. They do also break down the list by unit, so you could just pick items up as you need them. The big item I did have to spring for was a food scale. That was included in the $70 I spent.

What I like about this program:
  • The reading is simple, and the kids don't have time to get bored or lose interest.
  • The lab activities are fun and simple. They don't involve a lot of preparation.
  • All the activities and projects are explained very well and are simple to explain to the kids.
  • The kids LOVE IT, and they are learning. They beg me to do science.
  • I can teach both my kids (1st and 5th grade) at the same time.
  • The labs are all set up to help teach the scientific method.

What I don't like about this program:



BeckyJoie said...

It looks fun. We may check into it. Thanks for reviewing it. :>)

Debbie said...

This looks like a fun program. Did you find it age-appropriate for your fifth grader?

GardenofGems said...

Yes, my fifth grader loves the chemistry. He is able to work more independently on the paperwork part so that I can help my first grader. It is also teaching him to read and follow directions more carefully. I can step back a bit and let him take charge.