Thursday, August 15, 2013

Countdown to school: Grade 7 Science Plans

It's three weeks till school starts; for us, anyway.  I know some of you start school next Monday, some of you started this week, and some of you never stopped.  But we still have three weeks.

Since I had been looking at the World Book Typical Course of Study for 7th Grade Language and Math, I figured I might as well check out the Science topics as well.  I remember Mary Pride going through some of these lists, or something like them, in one of her books, and pointing out where there can be a lot of overlap and repetition between the grades, along with a few politically-correct or twaddly topics.  However, when I looked at the lists for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, and compared them with the two Apologia textbooks we have for middle school (General Science and Physical Science), I was a bit startled at how closely they lined up. General Science covers World Book topics such as microbes, algae and fungi, food for growth and energy, the cell, rocks, soil and minerals, weathering and erosion, the scientific method, and laboratory techniques (lab reports are required all through the book).  Physical Science includes chapters on climate and weather, atmosphere, electricity, and Newton's laws.   In fact, about the only major things missing would be a unit on chemistry (elements and compounds), maybe a space or astronomy unit, an oceans unit (which would be covered by The Sea Around Us if you had done Ambleside Online Year 6), and maybe some work on ecosystems, conservation, ecology and the environment.

Now obviously using the Apologia books is not the only way to cover those topics.  And when you say a textbook "covers" a topic, that can mean all kinds of things.  For instance, General Science has a chapter title that includes Paleontology, which might lead you to believe you're going to be discussing dinosaurs. Actually dinosaurs per se are mentioned about twice in the whole book.  Lots of fossils, studied in an age-of-the-earth context, but very little discussion of dinosaur life.  Just saying.  Also, the way that a Christian-based book "covers" a topic such as geology might be a little different from the way that a mainstream book handles it.  But since we do have the two books (plus some resources for the missing units), and I was planning on using them over the next two years anyway, the lists just reinforced that plan.

What I did change, while looking both at the lists and the textbooks, was the earlier plan to cover only half the General Science book this year.  Instead, we'll spend six weeks on the first three modules, which are an introduction to science history and the scientific method; skip Module 4, Simple Machines, since we've done lots of that before; and spend the rest of terms 1 and 2 on the Geology and Life Science modules, but saving most of the human-body chapters for next year.  The third term will be based on the DK Science Explorer bind-up volume we have (and other resources), using the sections on Matter and Chemistry (there's a lot of overlap in content).

Another thing I want to emphasize this year is getting out and letting Dollygirl have some fun being homeschooled.  Really.  Sometimes you just forget what's out there, or don't realize your kids have never gotten to do such and such.  Recently I downloaded Bucket List Learning, by Kimberlee Wilkes (when it was free--now it's not).  It was a reminder that sometimes you can actually cover a lot of lengthy school objectives through real-life experiences, field trips, community happenings.  In our own area, we are privileged to have an earth-sciences museum that not only provides school tours and talks, but also has a "rock garden"--not the kind you might have with flowers, but a "garden" of unusual geological specimens to walk through.  So obviously this is the year for us to make at least a couple of visits there.  Also there's a conservation area and nature centre within a short drive, that of course also offers school programs (for homeschoolers too) and places to just walk through the woods or look at pond life.  As the Bucket List book points out, once you start listing the stuff that's available (noon hour concerts! homeschool days at the museum! an archaeological site!), you can get carried away.

I'm looking forward to science...and I'm hoping that Dollygirl will get good things from this year's studies.

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