Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thoughts on First Grade Science

We had such an amazing fun time last summer working through Evan-Moor's Learning to Be a Scientist . The kids learned a lot, the repetition stuck the points with the kids, there wasn't too much set up or odd supplies required, and it worked for 1 kid or a large group of kids. Because of our wonderful experience with Learning to be a Scientist (which is out of print) I went ahead and purchased Evan-Moor's Learning about Animals and Learning about My Body to supplement our following of the science plan of the Well Trained Mind for first grade science. Sadly, these books were very unlike Learning to be a Scientist. These books were not nearly as adaptable for outside of a classroom size of participants or classroom materials that I guess public school teachers regularly have, but homeschoolers do not automatically purchase. Only about half of the activities were going to be doable by us. I did try, at the beginning, starting with Learning about Animals. But we quickly got bored with it, and I felt there was a lot missing, so we "supplemented" with the original plan, which was reading about an animal out of the Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia and then doing a narration/further reading/self-thought of project or craft to accompany. We tied this sometimes to our history; for example when we were learning about ancient Egypt we read and learned about crocodiles and camels. But then we all got sick, the holidays came, and then I got pregnant and horribly sick, and now we're months behind.

Yesterday I took a mental step back and thought about what science learning my first grader should have. Not to compare him with other students, homeschooled or public schooled, but what I thought he should know at his age and intellectual development. And I thought about what he already knows, what he's learned since this summer, mostly by books, rabbit trail discussions, or tv. And he actually has learned quiet a bit about the world. WTM sets a guide for a four year cycle of science as well as history, with the first year being biology (animals, human body, plants.)

  • Life cycle of plants: check. We did covered that when we tried to grow beans. And while we didn't make it though the entire cycle, it was explained enough that Builder Boy can tell you all about it. Not only that, but he understands the process as it works on farms. He knows where our food comes from (and it's not just from the store!) and understands the effect seasons and weather have on growing.
  • There are different parts of a plant: check. We covered that in different types of books, including What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, Apple Fractions, Why Do Leaves Change Color? (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Stage 2) , and others. There is also a Sid the Science Kid episode on just leaves and the things they do, from providing food for the plants through photosynthesis to being food for animals and people.
  • There are different types of plants: check. Real life experience and discussions have covered this. 
  • Plants' role in ecosystems: no check. This is something I'd like to look up, maybe find a book at a local library (once I find it in our new town!) Builder Boy has watched the Sid the Science Kid episode on water systems many times and is fascinated by it, so I think this is something he'd be very interested in.
  • Is there anything else I'm missing? Otherwise, I'd say we kind of unschooled Plant Science successfully for this year. When the weather is right we'll try planting some things again. I still want to get and read Green Thumbs: A Kid's Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening , but other than finding a book on ecosystems and that, I think we're good.
Human Body: 
  • Life cycle of humans: um, I'm pregnant. I think this is PERFECT timing. Not only has he learned that it takes 9 months, but he's haveing to experience those 9 months of waiting (well, 7 months of it. We didn't tell them right away in case something sad happened.)  We haven't gotten into how the baby got there (I don't think that's necessary at this point. We've read the book God Gave Us You several times, so he probably thinks it's immaculate conception at this point, but that's okay for right now. He's only 6, and anything he knows or learns, he shares. To his little brother, to complete strangers in Sunday School, wherever.) We've shown Builder Boy the videos of how babies grow and develop in the womb found on pregnancy sites and each week we give him the update of how big Squishy is now. He knows that babies have to grow and learn things, he knows that he's growing, he knows that the adults he knows were once kids, and he has several older relatives that visit so he's seen all the stages of aging. We've talked about death and what we believe happens when people die.
  • Body functions and systems: no check. He knows some basics, like why we eat and what happens to it. I really like Inside Your Outside: All About the Human Body (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library) and we've read it a bunch of times. So he knows the very basics, but I would like to go more into it. It may come down to reading the Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia and doing a narration for each topic and leaving it at that. 
  • Nutrition (which seems to be a big focus for public schools): check. Not just because of Sid the Science Kid (which, for the most part, I cannot recommend enough) and the PBS Kids games, but though life and other things like books that I can't think of right now. BOTH of the kids can sort foods into the food groups, and understand what main thing we get from each group and how it helps our bodies. I have been blessed with mainly healthy eaters (they would eat raw veggies and fruit all day if I let them) and we've been intentional about not having a lot of candy and sugary foods. (Remember Halloween?)
  • So, I'd say the Human Body is half done, and some reading and narration from Human Body Encyclopedia is enough for now. Which is something I can do from the easy chair that I spend most of my day in. It won't be as memorable or fun or in-depth as I had planned at the beginning of the year, but it will do.
  • Life cycles of animals: check. Builder Boy knows that animals are born, grow, change, and die. He knows some are born and some hatch from eggs. he knows about metamorphosis (butterflies and frogs) and about kids/cubs/kittens/etc. and adults. He knows that some animals eat other animals for food.
  • Different types of animals: half check? Builder Boy know that there are lots of different kinds of animals. He could probably name different types on his own, but I think a systematic review is called for. I will use Learning about Animals as a reading topic guide, and maybe do some of the coloring sheets (once Principal Daddy gets the scanner found, un-packed, and plugged in and working.)
  • Habitats and animals' role in ecosystems: no check. I'm hopping the book I find on ecosystems will cover both plants and animals. Builder Boy knows about different habitats, and that different types of animals live in different habitats, but that is only basically covered. I'd love to go more into it with him.
  • He does know about domestic animals and how people use them for resources. He also knows about hunting and fishing (he LOVES Deadliest Catch and Dirty Jobs) and farming. We haven't gone much into conservation. Of these three topics this is perhaps his weakest area, although he does know a lot of things that don't quite fit in these categories (like pig farming and alpaca breeding.) As soon as I can find the boxes with the science materials in them we will start reading and talking every day. 

Maybe this looks like I'm bragging, or trying to justify myself in this area. Clearly, if you're not puking your guts out (or something else disabling) there is more that could be taught, in more creative ways. But I think I need to give myself permission to be okay that I didn't follow The Plan. That stuff happened and I had to adapt and my kid is not going to suffer because I didn't cover absolutely everything. And, we will be covering Biology two more times though the next cycles. And it's LIFE. He's going to learn about it as we live and experience it. And he's only 6. I'm just going to keep repeating that to myself...

ETA: Wah hoo! I posted two days in a row! Stay tuned for TOMORROW'S cool offer from Zaner-Bloser!

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