What are your favourite science activities? Favourite curriculum? How do you take advantage of spring to get more science into your day?
I don't use a Science Curriculum for the pre-high school grades, I have tried to in the past, and have purchased a couple, but they tend to make science kind of boring. I like to approach science kind of like a detective story: "Let's find out how this works, and why!" My background is science, so this may be a bit easier for me naturally, but if you build a good collection of science books for reference at home, this is quite easy to do. Then when those questions come up, you have the resource right there, and can capture the "teachable moment." We have really enjoyed Magic School bus books and videos, and of course, Usborne books are some of the best out there. They have many to chose from, most of them with some great experiments that show, rather than just tell. Many of these experiments are quite safe to do at home using readily available materials so that your children can explore with minimal prep on your part. And the explanations for the science behind the activity are simple and right there, without being too verbose. The Usborne books also have great internet links that give more information for each subject they cover, appropriate to the age that the particular book is aimed at, many of these links include video clips, games and activity ideas. We even have some of these titles in the library at New Life. Of course, now that spring is here, there are many nature projects to do, such as starting seeds. One of our favourites is to go for walks in the local parks, such as Rocky Point or Como Lake. Take some binoculars and magnifying glasses to look for and study all the new life. Learn to identify trees and plants, see how many bugs you can find, and what they're eating, watch and identify wildlife, etc. Drawing nature is a great way to actually notice all the details as well! Start collections of insects, bark rubbings, even rocks; the possibilities are endless and can be for all ages.
We've really enjoyed using the book "Earth and Space" from the Christian Kids Explore series. There are two parts to each lesson: a reading, with definitions (if you want) and a great hands-on activity. The kids get to fill out a "Checking it Out Experiment Form" which gets them to write a hypothesis, desired results and actual results to reinforce learning. Something we've done in the past has been nature walks with another family. We've taken the kids out to various parks and scenic locations for a walk. At one point in the walk we have the kids paint something they see like a flower, a bird or a nature scene in their nature notebook - idea taken from the Charlotte Mason approach.
Science is something that I find seems to die down during the winter months, but really starts to pick up in the spring. We do a lot of nature study and exploration. The girls keep a nature journal and do sketches, as well as just general observing as they become more familiar with the animals in their neighbourhood. We were a part of the backyard bird study this year, so we are constantly observing what is in the yard even now. Gardening, planting/growing, overturning rocks, nature walks, as well as the environmental studies such as planting trees, and taking care of the earth brings in a lot of science. We are growing wheat, and observing meal worms as some simple hands on things to do. (We got a variety of worms, including meal worms, a silk worm, and a horned worm, from Roberto's Pet Habitat.) The backyard scientist series is a great one for us, as well as "106 Days of Creation" which includes a lot of hands on activities and engages the kids in the world around them but centered around God's creation. We have also discovered the value of a membership this year to the planetarium which has allowed the kids to explore and develop their interest in space, etc. From that, I have noticed so much of the learning coming out in their conversations and activities at home.
Science is an area I have continually struggled with, so I have really watched other families' science explorations mentioned above with interest. Where I find science overwhelming and messy, C. grabs the chance for discovery, and what a rich opportunity it gives her children! I am learning from her that my life doesn't need to be perfect before I start a project. I'm also learning to take advantage of the available resources. Science World is running a series of homelearner workshops, and we have a membership, too, so that day becomes a monthly science exploration for us. And I am learning to live with things like the muddy clothes my kids got today exploring the mud flats at Rocky Point Park while crab hunting.