For the last few years, the kids have worked their way through the various science courses offered by Apologia for the elementary grade level. They have loved learning about botany, astronomy, anatomy and physiology, and zoology with the Young Explorer series. Now that they are a bit older, it was the perfect time for us to move up to the next level of their science learning and begin the middle school level.
I had already had my eyes on Apologia's Exploring Creation with General Science, 3rd Edition to use with
the kids. This course was designed to give middle school students a strong understanding of general sciences as they transition from the elementary courses, creating a solid platform of knowledge for them to build upon as they progress thru middle school and on to high school science courses, all with a Christian worldview.
The course is written by Sherri Seligson, who also wrote the Apologia curriculum Exploring Creation with Marine Biology. It is written for a middle school level, preferably 7th grade level, although for this review I am using it with my two students who are 5th/6th grade but are very advanced in their science knowledge.
For this review, we were given the General Science Basic Set, which included the textbook, one student notebook, the solutions and test manual and the test booklet. I purchased a second copy of the student notebook in order to use this curriculum with both Garrett and Ashleigh, as each student needs to have their own copy of the student notebook.
First, let me take a few moments to describe the books.
The first book is the hardback textbook. This 434 page full color textbook features 14 modules that cover a large portion of general science teaching.
Each module focuses on one aspect of science and builds upon itself. For example, the first module introduce the history of science and how scientists use research from those before them to pursue their own findings. The next few modules then introduce the students in how to follow the scientific method to perform their own research, how to document and how to interpret the results they find. Each of these steps are important to them as they perform their own experiments as they proceed thru the rest of the book.
The fourteen modules are :
Module 1 - The History of Science
Module 2 - Scientific Inquiry and the Scientific Method
Module 3 - Documenting and Interpreting Experimental Results
Module 4 - Scientific Analysis and History
Module 5 - Earth Science - Astronomy
Module 6 - Earth Science - Geology and Paleontology
Module 7 - Earth Science - Meteorology and Oceanography
Module 8 - General Chemistry
Module 9 - General Physics
Module 10 - Life Science
Module 11 - General Biology
Module 12 - Marine Science
Module 13 - Environmental Science
Module 14 - Science and Creation
The end of the book also contains pages for quick reference for lab supplies (listed first by module and then by experiment - making it super easy to plan ahead for experiments) as well as a index for looking up names and topics quickly.
Each module takes roughly 2-2.5 weeks to complete when working at a pace of roughly 45-60 minutes a day for 4 days a week, allowing completion of all 14 modules in a 33 week school year. Depending on your personal school year and pace, this is easily modified to fit the curriculum into your own personal school year.
Modules contain a wide variety of activities for the students to work on. A number of recommended experiments are included throughout each module that should be completed for the curriculum. Additional "Explore More" boxes are also included and while are not necessary to complete for the curriculum, they do help the student to better understand the concept being taught.
The text is chocked full of colorful photography and illustrations which visually hold the students interest as well as present concepts as more than just text on paper. Photographs and graphics areclear and vibrant with an appealing layout, breaking material down in such a way as to not be overwhelming to the student and in terminology that the student can understand. Relevant vocabulary words as well as definitions are clearly marked out in blue color to point out there importance to the lesson (and to hint that it will probably be on the test.). I wish I had a copy of Edition 1 or Edition 2 to compare to the corresponding pages in Edition 3 - however, I can say that the quality of the textbook is very nicely done and is very professional.
Also, like every other Apologia textbook, this edition of General Science includes the password to register your book with the website. Doing so gives you access to additional resources that can be used with the course.
The Student Notebook is a 552 page, softcover spiral bound companion book for the text and is required for the course. The notebook provides activities that accompany the text, such as easy to understand graphics for labeling, fill in the blank portions for note taking while reading, vocabulary portions for new concepts, and questions for critical thinking.
The notebook also provides sections for each of the various experiments found in the text where students work on documenting their hypothosis, procedures, and results.
While some experiments are recorded in the portion for the module, it should also be noted that some of the other experiments, those that ask the student to use the scientific method (creating a hypothosis, documenting equipment used, ect) is recorded in pages toward the back of the student notebook.
Also included in the student notebook is a full schedule to show their daily assignments and as well as a section to keep track of their grades. Students can check off their assignments daily to stay on track and also provides a visual reminder of what needs to be completed each day.
Solutions and Test Manual/Tests
An 83 page black and white softcover book containing the correct answers for the study guides as well as the answers for the tests for 13 modules (module 14 does not include a test and so does not need a study guide). The manual also includes how much to weigh each question when grading the tests to acquire an accurate grade to record.
Also included with the manual is the test for each module (again, minus module 14). This is a 31 page packet containing the tests to be given without answers. Each page is perforated if the preference is to remove the test from the packet or the entire packet can be given to the student for them to complete.
Also available for this science curriculum is an MP3 Audio CD which contains the complete audio recording of the course. A video lesson thumb drive containing video lessons taught by Sherri Seligson is also available with this course, however, members of the crew did not review these two items at this time.
How We Used It:
We have been using the recommended schedule of working through the curriculum 4 days a week (Mon-Thursday). We have completed two modules and will begin the third module this week. This includes all reading, activities, and experiments as well as completion of the study guides and two module tests.
We appreciate the Christian worldview that Apologia sciences presents to the kids - and while we don't agree with everything (for example, we do not adhere to the young earth theory that some Christian science courses hold as truth), I am always happy to present them with a science that reflects our belief in Creation versus being slugs that drug ourselves out of some cosmic ooze. I ESPECIALLY appreciated the fact that this book approaches the fact that all science, including this book, approach science with a particular worldview that they belief and that it is up to the students to recognize the worldview and how it affects the scientific data being presented.
I was a bit hesitant when it came to the student notebook with Garrett - he hates writing and typically whines and cries when he has to write anything. However, it seems that Garrett is so interested in the material being presented, he doesn't seem to mine filling out his notebook each day. He also looks forward to finishing the work each day so that he can make a check in the box on his schedule, giving him a sense of accomplishment and completion.
Since we only have one copy of the textbook, we are working together on our lessons, however, this curriculum would be simple for a student to use independently or with very little instruction from the teacher.
I personally found the text book to be written in such a way that it can easily hold the kids attention, give plenty of guidance for us to have a fairly in depth discussion in regards to what we've read, and walk away from the lesson having learned something.
While material itself has been very interesting but the experiments are the highlight of the course. Almost every day, there's some sort of activity or experiment for the kids to complete. We have been aiming to complete both the scheduled experiments as well as the "Explore More" boxes. Most experiments use everyday items that you probably already have around the house (although, for the life of me, I did not have a paperclip needed for one experiment and had to substitute something else - which the kids diligently documented in their student notebook when asked for changes we had to make in materials). Some experiments do require special items such as beakers, insulated copper wires, and Alum for example but there are no hugely expensive items that will break the bank.
Overall, I am very happy with the curriculum and even had it not been a review item for us, I would have purchased this curriculum regardless. The fact that even Garrett made a passing grade on both of his module tests demonstrates to me that they are definitely learning the material. To be honest, I'm learning right along side them as I had no idea what quanta was ;)
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