Monday, April 07, 2014

Science: Biology

This post is overdue, we have moved onto the next science unit. Nonetheless in the interests of full reporting, I shall post about our biology explorations. In a week or two I shall repost this to some random date in February.

The trio and I did the second science unit of the school year: Biology. We are using Rebecca W. Keller's Real Science 4 Kids series. The course suggested that you start with chemistry, then do biology. We finished chemistry so we moved on to biology. There are ten chapters in the book "Elementary Focus on Biology". We worked through the first six chapters at which point we were stymied. To do the experiments for chapters six and seven we needed a microscope. Chapter eight's experiment required a live caterpillar and chapter nine's required tadpoles. Caterpillars and tadpoles are hard to come by in Alaska in the dead of winter. Kara and I decided to end the children's biology explorations at this point in time. Next time we pick up biology we will do it in the spring so we can do the experiments.

The biology course is well written. Dr. Keller keeps the lessons short and interesting. An experiment accompanies each lesson. Some experiments worked for us; some did not.

Chapter 1: Life
Experiment 1: Classifying Objects
It was a simple, hands-on experiment that the children enjoyed it. They understood the concept taught. I liked that it didn’t require any unusual supplies that we had to track down before we could do the experiment! 

Chapter 2: Cells: A Small City
Experiment 2: What Do You Need?
The children did not learn the concept being taught. The experiment was a discussion on how the complexity of a cell is like the complexity of a city. We followed the questions in the experiment manual, but they were too broad and we got lost.

Chapter 3: Food for Plants
Experiment 3: Who Needs Light?
I confess: we did not do this experiment. Even in the name of science I cannot purposely kill a plant.

Chapter 4 : Plant Parts
Experiment 4: Thirsty Flowers
We did not do this one either! Eeks! It required that you buy some cut flowers. We did this experiment last year, so we didn't repeat it.

Chapter 5: Growing a Plant
Experiment 5: Growing Seeds
We did this one. The kids enjoyed looking at all the beans and peas. They stuck them in jars. They checked to see how they sprouted. We kept them for a week. We then opened up one of the jars---BIG MISTAKE. The stench was incredible. The experiment manual should have warned us. A nasty, nasty, nasty smell invaded our home. I will remember this experiment forever. (Just like I remember in junior high when the biology class visited Homer and brought back marine samples. Then next day the entire school smelled horrible.)

Elementary biology is a lot more work than the other sciences because some of the experiments require weeks of observations and special items or equipment. It's hard to maintain focus like that in a home environment. It's so much easier to start and finish an experiment in one session!

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