Friday, January 13, 2012

Changing Gears

We are back to schooling after a nearly three week break. I think we all really needed that time off. I felt a level of energy this week that I haven't felt in a long time. Over the weekend, I spent a large amount of time prepping both my next science unit and our civics unit for this year. I also spent a good deal of time updating our American history studies to include a much better plan of action.

Before I really dive into what is coming, I want to spend just a little time sharing some of the highlights of our Marine Science unit that wrapped up right before the holiday break. We dedicated six weeks to this study. Our texts included Marine Science 2, published by Dandy Lion, Discover Nature at the Seashore by Elizabeth P. Lawlor, and Ocean published by the American Museum of Natural History. Different topics of study included life in the kelp forests, anatomy and shape of fish, tide pools and their ecosystems, marine mammals and their habitats, ocean invertebrates, marine plants, and my favorite...sand!

I know the study of sand probably borders more on the geology side of science, but after seeing Dr. Gary Greenberg's work with sand, I can't get enough! We brought a sample home from Ocean City and I made a request to family and friends that if they get anywhere near a body of water, they must bring me a sample of sand to examine.

Here's a picture of a portion of our collection so far.

We also had a few ocean related field trips. Our annual visit to a performance of the Harrisburg Symphony turned out to be a perfect fit for our science units. One of the pieces was an excerpt from Claude Debussy's, La Mer. We took a family vacation to Ocean City, NJ in mid-November and also visited the Adventure Aquarium.

Each of the boys made a poster showing the life found in a kelp forest.

We enjoyed this unit because it allowed us to go places we hadn't before. The boys had not seen the ocean so our trip was a first for them. They learned a great deal about how diverse life can be, from the cold, dark depths of the oceans to the warm, tropical reefs. They learned about animals that can thrive in the freezing Antarctic waters and on the scalding hot ocean vents. For Christmas, JT received a copy of the series, The Blue Planet. As we watch it together we are able to reinforce much of what we learned in our marine science unit and will continue to add to our new knowledge.

And now for the new plans! After spending countless hours poring over specs on various microscopes, I finally made my purchase. I settled for the Omano OM118-M4. It arrived this week and I am in love! I might let the boys use it... if they can get me away from it. I also ordered a microtome to allow us to make many of our own slides. I could have made a homemade one using an old thread spool, but I couldn't resist the fancy version.

Our official name for our new science unit is cellular structure and microscope use. My plan covers the next eight weeks of schooling. I'm really looking forward to this unit. It's going to have a HUGE amount of hands-on work. The boys will get a chance to really learn how to put a good scientific journal together. We will also make many of our own slides and explore the world of the tiny. We have already started looking at cell structures this week. BrainPOP has been an excellent source for this plan. We will also use quite a few books for this study. A few of my favorites are in the picture on the right.

Next week I'll give some details on both our civics and American history plans. I know I have been posting nearly exclusively about science this year and would like to broaden my subject matter a bit as I continue. While reading, writing and mathematics are very important skills that everyone needs to learn, science can give us so much opportunity to be set on fire for learning. I know the desire to go a little deeper comes most often with my boys when we are exploring the world around us. That excitement can turn the need to write a paper or read a long passage from a scientific journal from tedium to adventure. So bring on the science and all the rest can fall into place.


Ingi Mc said...

Oooh! Can I come look through your microscope? Sounds like a fun few weeks coming up - keep us posted!

Cyber Momma said...

You can look through my microscope if I can look through your telescope! :-)

I spent a few hours last night playing with my new toy. I can't tell you how many times I said, "Wow!" I think this is going to be a great tool for us.

I am considering buying the camera to hook up to the microscope. If I do, you WILL be able to look through it from way over there.

Annie said...

Again, I'm behind in my reading, but I've got to say that I love your science units. Have you considered writing up a detailed plan and making it available for sale as a pdf?

Cyber Momma said...

Thanks, Annie. Maybe some day I'll put a science package together to share with others. If I manage to pull off my four-unit-a-year plan, I could pack it up and put it out there. Not sure if it would be worthy of 'selling', but I'd certainly be happy to let others see what I've done.