My planning for this coming school year is nearly complete. The subject that I both enjoy and dread when it comes to planning is definitely science. Don't get me wrong...I love science. It has always been my favorite subject. At one point in my life I was registered as a biology major, but life doesn't always follow the path you expect and that's another story. The biggest challenge here is narrowing down what we are going to study for the year. There are just too many choices!
At the beginning of last year, I had set a goal to spend more time focusing on specific topics of interest in science and less time jumping around from topic to topic the way most elementary science text books tend to do. I also tried to incorporate as much hands-on learning and experimentation as possible. As the year went on, I started to worry that the boys wouldn't be on target for what they should know in science if I didn't use a grade appropriate text book as a guide. So I pulled one for each boy from my supply and started the tedious process of reading from a text book.
This year, there will be little need for text books in science! My overall plan currently looks something like this:
I will have a grade appropriate text book on hand for each of the boys. I will give them free rein with those books. They can read them, page through them, or completely ignore them.
We chose four major topics we want to cover for the year. Entomology, marine biology, cells and their structures (definitely spending considerable time on microscope use) and finally, geology with a dose of paleontology. As you can see, this year leans heavily on the biology side of the science spectrum.
At this point, I am working hard to outline what I really want to cover in our first unit. JT has been after me for 4 years to have an 'entomology course'. He will finally get his wish. I am using the book The Practical Entomologist as the backbone of our study. We certainly have a large selection of reading material covering the insect world. I hope to tie our study of word roots with the scientific names of the insects. I am shopping on the Home Science Tools website for all of the fun accessories we may need to create a spectacular collection of insect specimens. Also, we will be going to The Great Insect Fair held in State College on the Penn State University campus. We have wanted to attend the last two years, but our schedule prevented it. They also sponsor a Build-A-Bug contest that both boys are planning to enter. When I look at everything we could possibly do with this unit, 45 days (1/4 of the required 180 school days in PA), will never be enough!
One last thing I am planning for our science studies this year, involves nature journaling. I am buying a copy of The Nature Connection by Clare Walker Leslie for each of the boys AND one for myself. This book comes highly recommended and when I looked through it, I could certainly see why. After two introductory chapters titled, "How to Be a Naturalist" and "Learning the Sky" Leslie launches into Part Three, "Exploring Nature: A Month-by-Month Guide". The book is designed so that you can record your observations directly on the pages. Readers are encouraged to add drawings and photos to the journal. Each section covers a different month and discusses different plants and animals that you might encounter at that time of the year. It also has a place to record temperature, weather and astronomical data. I plan to hold these books in reserve until December. We will begin our data gathering at the start of the calendar year. I'm hoping that will encourage us to get outside when we might prefer to stay indoors and hibernate.
The more time I spend planning this year, the more excited I am about our prospects. My expectations are not always accurate. But I know that's part of the learning process...and I'll accept whatever comes my way.