Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Next school year will be the first time that I have used a science curriculum. I think that science should be a messy, hands-on endeavor. We have the privilege of living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Our house is surrounded by woods. My kids can identify an eastern towhee based on sound alone. They can identify a wide variety of wildflowers and can tell you what month each of those flowers will bloom. Weather patterns are a constant topic of conversation in our community, and my children live the differences between snow, freezing rain, and hail. They are learning about seeds and plants as we participate in our neighborhood garden. They know that too much rain turns your basil black, but makes your cilantro three feet tall. They know more about salamanders than I do and can tell you the heart rate of the humming bird that we share three meals a day with,
But . . . . .

This year when my rising 3rd grader found out that there would be a science portion on her standardized test she panicked.
M: “Mom, we haven’t done science this year.”
Me: “Sure we have. You have a journal. Remember when we recorded the height of the basil plants.”
M: “yeah, but then Z ruined them”
(Z is baby brother, and did in fact ruin the basil plants. Several times.)
Me: “Well, that is part of science. Even great scientists have to start over sometimes. Anyway, we have done science. Remember talking about birds?”
M: “um, did that count?”

There was more to the conversation, but it was all pretty similar to what you see above. So, this year we are “doing science”. My girls crave structure. This free form science is life plan of mine is not working for them.

I think that I have found a reasonable compromise. Next year we will use R.E.A.L. Science level 1. I was sold when the woman on the phone started reading the necessary supply list, “pitch fork for collecting worms . . . “ R.E.A.L. stands for read, explore, absorb, learn. There are student worksheets, a short reading assignment and a lab for each unit. The material includes a reading list for each unit and helpful websites. The program assumes that you will have science twice a week. Level 1 is “life science” and includes human anatomy, animal life and plant life.

Hopefully next May M will not panic when it is time for Standardized testing, and both girls will continue to learn that science is a wonderful, hands-on subject.

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