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A Review of Elementary Science Curricula

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Science knowledge is gained by observation and experimentation. This system has been used to learn more about the world, animals, people, and space. In the elementary grades, the focus of science study is to 1) learning basic information about what scientists have discovered, and 2) learn how to ask questions and make observations to gain an understanding of the world. Ideally, science study will help a child develop critical thinking and discovery skills and instill a fascination with how things work. This review of elementary science curricula includes textbooks and other programs readily available to homeschool families. This review is not all inclusive and only includes elementary science curricula that I have used or am familiar with.

Elementary Science Curricula

Science a Closer Look

Overview

Science A Closer Look is a series of science textbooks for grades 1-6. This series provides general science information. The topics covered are appropriate for each grade level and include an experiment in each unit.

Benefits

These textbooks are not only a great source for general science information, they can also be used for grade level reading fluency and reading comprehension practice. I have used the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade texts for this purpose. I stopped using the texts after 4th grade as my son found them too dry.

Limitations

Some children may not be interested in reading a textbook to learn science. Other curricula options may be more interesting.

Evan-Moor Daily Science

 

 

 

Overview

These books teach science concepts in a worksheet format. A different book is available for grades 1-6.

Benefits

This is an open-and-go type of curriculum. There really is no teacher preparation, except for copying the worksheets. If you buy the e-book version off of the Evan-Moor website, you can easily print what you need. The worksheets are at the appropriate reading and writing level for each grade.

Limitations

Not all children respond well to a worksheet based program. Children are required to fill in blanks and write some responses.

CLICK HERE to read a more detailed review of Evan-Moor’s Daily Science books.

Real Science 4 Kids

Overview

This science curriculum explains advanced science concepts in ways that young children can understand. The textbooks are full of bright pictures that provide a visual explanation of concepts. The program includes textbooks, lab books, quizzes, etc.

Benefits

The pre-level books provide a great introduction to science topics. Biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and geology are covered in different books. I have used the pre-level books which are no longer available directly from the publisher.

Limitations

I find this science curriculum on the expensive side. The publisher’s current website is a little difficult to navigate. When I first purchased this program, there were a few different levels available for each topic area. It appears that the publishers are currently selling only one option for elementary school and second option for middle school.

R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey

 

 

 

Overview

This science curriculum was written specifically for homeschooling families and other small group settings. The lessons include an information page and activities to go with each topic.

Benefits

The activities in the curriculum are very hands-on. One of my favorite features is that the publisher offers a free download of a very generous portion of each book. You can try the curriculum before you buy it to be sure it is a good fit for your child. CLICK HERE to go to Pandia Press’s Try Before You Buy page.

Limitations

This may just be my personal problem, but I have a hard time getting activity materials together. It took me about a month to make ice cubes for one activity. Now I am stuck on the next lesson as I don’t have a 2-liter bottle to make a rain gauge.

TOPS Science

Overview

TOPS science provides hands-on units for a variety of topics. The materials required are relatively inexpensive and readily available in hardware or general stores. Most of their units are designed for upper elementary school and higher grades. There is a lentil unit and a balance unit that are appropriate for grades K-3. There are a few more units that are designed for 3rd to 8th grade (i.e., electricity and magnetism)

Benefits

The available units cover topics that may be helpful for a child with specific interests. For instance, I have a child who is interested in electricity and circuitry and we have been using the TOPS electricity unit. Although the lessons are advertised for 3rd grade, my child has not been able to complete the activities independently.

Limitations

This program provides hands-on exploratory science units. If you use the unit with a child near the bottom end of the recommended grade range, you may have to provide more help with the activities.

A Science Exploration Framework as described in The Well-Trained Mind

Overview

This is not actually a formal curriculum, but a framework for exploring science. Topics are explored by reviewing children’s encyclopedias and other science books. Children than use narration to put the information covered into their own words. Depending on a child’s level, the instructor can record their narration or the child can write their own sentences as a record of what they have learned. Projects are also completed on a regular basis as part of the science concept exploration process. General topics (e.g., astronomy, life science, etc.) and some suggested schedules are recommended for each grade level.

Benefits

Multiple children could be taught simultaneously in the primary grades. The emphasis is on enjoying science. Specific areas (e.g., horses, volcanoes, etc.) can be selected based on a child’s interest.

Limitations

This approach may take more preparation than an open-and-go type of curriculum. The authors recommend several children’s encyclopedias and projects books that can be used as foundation resources for science study. The initial investment may be more than buying a preset science curriculum. The authors also recommend finding library books as additional sources for deeper exploration into topics the child is interested in.

Final Recommendations on Elementary Science Curricula

I consider all of the elementary science curricula reviewed in this article to be high quality. If you want a textbook, I would recommend Science A Closer Look. The Evan-Moor daily science practice is excellent if you do not have any preparation time. TOPS and R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey are both quality hands-on curricula. If you want a framework for exploring science topics, I highly recommend reading the Well-Trained Mind. For the 2017-2018 school year, I plan on using The Well Trained Mind science study framework.

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