Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to School Plans, Part One: Changes to Dollygirl's Grade Six Science

Sometimes you have to trust your instincts about books.

I had a strong feeling that the physical science textbook we planned on using for Dollygirl's Grade Six was going to be dull, too young for her, and too much repetition of stuff we'd already done.  Our family bent is towards physical sciences anyway--where we usually come up short is on chemistry and biology.  I know Mr. Fixit used the textbook with Ponytails in Grade Seven, but I think that he added to it from his own knowledge; and he's not teaching science this year except maybe for a bit of workshop stuff.

"Couldn't you do sort of a Grade Six Integrated Science course?" asked our science major.  "Work on a problem and use different kinds of science to solve it?"  I liked that idea, although I wasn't sure what kind of a problem we could work on at this level.

But even if we were to stick with physical science, I kept wishing that we at least had a better (as in, more appropriate for Dollygirl) spine book to go with the suggested biographies of Einstein and Archimedes.

Then I happened to be at the big downtown library--just by a fluke, or maybe by Providence, because I haven't even been at that library for at least a year--and I found it.

The Great Motion Mission: A Surprising Story of Physics in Everyday Life, by Cora Lee, illustrated by Steve Rolston (ISBN: 9781554511853, Annick Press, 2009).  There's a good review of it here.  It's still in print and available through the online bookstores.

It's a bit along the lines of The Magic School Bus, but for older kids (grade 5-6 and up).  There's an almost-too-smart-to-be-true teenage science whiz (Ms. Frizzle Junior?) who's out to spread the gospel of science-is-amazing.  There's a goateed Gen-Xer who wishes she'd keep quiet, and the nephew of the goateed one, an eventual convert to "Yes, science is interesting, science is important, and science is all around us, so you'd better pay attention."

This is not baby science: we are not putting pots of water on the stove here just to see them steam.  This is a book full of grownup ideas and contemporary vocabulary: superstring theory, quarks, dark matter, integrated circuitry.  But it also covers some of the basics, things that we could spend extra time on, trying things out for ourselves, or looking them up in more detail:  the physics of hitting a baseball, concepts of light and sound, mass, gravity and so on.  And that is the difference between trying to force some interest out of the old textbook topics, vs. using the same textbook (as I'm planning to do) as our reference guide.  Yes, Dollygirl has seen demonstrations of friction and static electricity; she knows that matter can be solid, liquid or gas: but this book takes it all a step beyond, into the world of what scientists do with those facts.

As far as Christian/non-Christian, creationist/evolutionist issues go, I didn't find the book offensive.  There's one section about the origins of the universe and the Big Bang theory, and one reference to the His Dark Materials books, but that's about it.

The book is only seven chapters long, which, at the rate of about one chapter every two weeks, will take us through the first term.  After that, I think we'll concentrate on Archimedes and the Door of Science and The Sea Around Us.

I'm now looking forward with much more enthusiasm to the first term of science.  I hope Dollygirl enjoys it too.  (Update: The Apprentice says she's thought of some other good ideas for science, but she'll have to email them to me because her time home from her summer job was very brief this weekend.)

P.S.  Cora Lee has also written a similar book about math, which I'd like to look at, but the only copy in our library system is at another branch, so I'll have to request it.

Linked from Carnival of Homeschooling: Let's Play School Edition, at


Ellen, the Bluestocking Belle said...

This looks great! I'm going to take a closer look.

Moniksca said...

This looks cute, I will have to take a look, we'll be doing physics this year. Great find!

Natalie said...

Thanks! Mr. Curiosity wanted to do physics this year. Just picked up a used copy of this for him.

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