Great way to do science with mid- to upper-elementary students

When I had the opportunity to review The Earth: Its Structure & Its Changes by Tom DeRosa and Carolyn Reeves for Page Turners, I jumped at it.  I've reviewed another in this series (Energy: Its Forms, Changes and Function) which we loved.  And this time, I had the chance to get a look at not just the main book, but the combined Teacher's Guide and Student Journal as well.

We were not disappointed.  This book is as good as the other we've used.  And since yesterday was Earth Day, I thought it was about time I posted a review.

Some information from the publisher:
The Earth: Its Structure & Its Changes is a study of the
fascinating world of geology. With explanations of how our Earth was shaped, this elementary science curriculum gives evidence to the Genesis Flood, accompanying earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other powerful processes. Students will explore 20 investigations through experiments and a very specific learning progression.
Students will examine natural occurrences such as mountains, volcanoes, rocks, minerals, crystals, water, and dirt (just to name a few). By using household items such as hard boiled eggs, oranges, measuring cups, maps, clay and markers, these scientific truths will come to life.
This title contains a full circle view of geology, creation, and history. All three of these topics are combined to create the big picture for your student and develop a stronger root in their faith.
Authors Tom DeRosa and Carolyn Reeves are committed biblical creationists with a combined 60 years teaching science. Both are excellent at helping students experience science concepts in the world around them.
What did we think?  Wow! is a pretty good single word summary.  These books are intended for grades 3-6, and I used this with Thomas (4th grade) and also with Richard (1st grade).  Big brothers listened in on some of it too, and definitely got in on the hands on parts.

The "specific learning process" mentioned above is to Engage, Investigate, Explain, Apply, Expand and Assess.  Most science programs seem to take the approach that you start with Explain, and then maybe tack on some Investigate or Apply, and definitely do some Assess.  I love the idea of starting off by getting the kids interested and involved, and only then doing the reading parts.

How does that work in reality?  Well, let me talk through Investigation 1 as that was the only one where I was coherent enough to snap a photo.

Engage:  this involves a very short little story about two kids looking at a globe and wondering about the countries of Togo and Greenland.  It takes a couple of minutes, and sets up the whole rest of the section.

Investigate:  the problem being investigated is "How can the countries on a round earth be shown on a flat map?" and "What do lines on the map tell us?"  Okay, so Thomas has explored this before, and was pretty quick to give some answers.  Nevertheless, we proceeded to draw on an orange or two:

And then we cut off the peel and looked at our resulting map.  The continents at the North Orange Pole (Thomas' name, not the books) and the South Orange Pole were way bigger than they had been on the orange.  Both boys really GOT this idea, first hand.  It was fabulous.  The Student Journal devotes a page to this Investigate section.

Explain:  this is covered in the bulk of the text for the unit, "The Science Stuff" and it talks about things like longitude and latitude using the orange as an example, then applying it to the globe and map.   This section does involve a fair amount of reading, but still, we're talking maybe 15 minutes.

Apply:  this section talked about time around the world, and it talked about GPS devices.  In this case, the apply section was basically another few minutes of reading, but some of the others involve activities like comparing pictures of rock layers.  The kids loved this generally.

Expand:  The expand section generally gives a couple of ideas to go "Dig Deeper" with some of the issues.  In this investigation, we were interested in both suggestions, so we did them.  The first involved the differences between the geographic and magnetic poles.  The second involved figuring out what time it is right now in various cities around the world.   In other investigations, we would only do one activity, or sometimes none.  We love the variety of activities presented here.  The Student Journal had places to document what the child does.

Assess: The assess section involved a few questions that we covered orally.  We could have written out the answers in the Student Journal, but my kids are so pencil-phobic that I chose to do this orally.  Questions such as "Is the International Date Line a longitudinal line or a latitudinal line?"

The Teacher's Guide includes such things as answers to the questions, tips to make the hands-on parts work well, and some teaching suggestions, like the idea of tying the investigation on soil in to some documentaries about the Dust Bowl of the 30s. 

We love these books.  They cover the topics pretty thoroughly, and in a great hands-on and Biblical way.  Most of the materials are pretty easy to obtain, which I appreciated.  I just had to remember to look ahead a week or two, so I'd be sure to have oranges on hand, for instance, or paper plates.

The photos in the book are fabulous and really drew my boys in.  The activities were almost all total hits as well.  I did have a couple of quibbles with how some information was presented, but nothing major, especially factoring in that this is intended for 8-12 year olds, not geology PhD candidates.

I highly recommend these books as a great way to do science with mid- to upper-elementary students.  This is the fourth title in this series.  I think you could easily do two a year and have a solid science curriculum, so for VERY little money, you can have two years of elementary science.  With any luck, by then, there will be a new title or two out.  The other subjects are Energy, Forces & Motion, and Matter.  The best part?  Most everything out there for this age group is biology related.  These get some physics and earth science into the mix.

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  

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