Saturday, October 22, 2011

Science Planning for Youngers


My older kids were very science and nature oriented.  They pored over natural history books, carried field guides and consulted them often, made their own nature journals, went outside and inspected bugs and reptiles.

So you could say I unschooled science because schooling it would have just narrowed the field.   We did science here and there, but it was sporadic and interest-based and closely connected to the world outside our doors.

When they got to high school I did generally use a couple of textbooks for science, but the kids still read lots of "living" science books and did their own science-related projects and research.

My present 8 year old and 12 year old haven't had that "natural" element wakened in them so much yet.  It is harder to get them outdoors, especially the 8 year old, because he doesn't have a crew of siblings close to him in age.    We live in a National Forest, of course, and the outdoors is natural indeed.  I think he is a little nervous about going outside without us, and with some reason, as coyotes, bears and mountain lions aren't unknown in our environment, and we seem to have a whole family of deer hanging out in our lot nowadays, judging by how frequently we see them dash off when we go outside.

Another thing --  I realize I never really got into the habit of intentionally looking for opportunities to expose him to natural wonders.    I think it was because we had a science curriculum with K12 and so I felt like that was "enough."  I really liked having a sort of plan with K12, and they gave us all the materials to go with the field work and labs, which was nice, but I hated being forced through material at a given pace (usually too fast for us, sometimes too slow if we found the topic uninspiring).

I made a list of topics to use as a general framework.  

  1. Space -- the Solar System  and the Universe
  2. The Sky, and Weather 
  3. The Ocean 
  4. The Earth
  5. Plants
  6. Birds, Insects and Reptiles  
  7. Animals (Land Mammals) 
  8. Human Health 
  9. Physical Science
  10. Technology and Inventions 
  11. History of Science

I like this unit study plan, because I like the idea of planning out units in a big-picture way.

There is a good page on Nature Study, with some schedules for different years, at Ambleside Online.

I like this part -- the idea of a "focus" and also the idea of being willing to let go of the focus when something interesting comes up:  

Your primary goal during the "bird" term is to heighten your children's awareness of the feathered creatures around them.....You might choose to read to your children directly from the Handbook of Nature Study (not about every bird, but perhaps a few that interest all of you), or you may just use it more as a "teacher's guide." When your bird term is finished and you move onto reptiles or something next term, you will find that the relationship your children developed with birds continues. At least, that has been the case at my house. I've been doing the "focused" nature studies for several years now, and the results have been pleasing. Once the children have their awareness heightened, they continue to notice birds, even when you are focusing on rocks and minerals. After a few terms of this, they begin to be aware of many things at once and get quite sharp at spotting items of interest!

... Just because this is the "bird" term, it does not mean that you must limit your nature study exclusively to birds. That is your focus, so at least once a week, on a nature walk, you will want to be noticing them. But if the kids get excited about a wasp's nest, or a pretty flower, or a fossil . . . take advantage of their interest and draw or talk about that for the day. You have a whole term to "focus" on birds, so there's no need to tune out all the other interesting things that come up.
ETA:  I listed some science and notebooking resources over here

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