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Update: The 4th edition of this series was released early in 2016. There's not much content difference, but AIG corrected errors and made subtle updates with new information. The books were made easier to read with a new font and two-column format (compare old with new). AIG has also removed the CD-ROMs with the consumable tests & quizzes and are now offering a free download instead (account on AIG's website required), along with a page of internet links that correlate with the books.
Richard and Debbie Lawrence, not finding a solid Creationist science curriculum to their liking, decided to write one themselves. The God's Design series was initially self-published, until the folks at Answers in Genesis discovered and decided to publish it. Parents appreciate the simple lesson format and strong Christian presuppositions; kids like the activities and simple text.
The series is extraordinarily flexible. Each book is independent and appropriate for a broad range of ages (it was written with 1st-8th graders in mind), so parents can start wherever they want; there's no imposed order. Four main subject headings include Heaven & Earth (earth science, astronomy), Life (biology, botany, zoology), The Physical World (physics, technology), and Chemistry & Ecology; each group includes three texts and three teacher books.
There are about 34-35 lessons in each book; doing three lessons a week allows students to finish three books per year (the publisher suggests this approach), though parents can move slower or quicker depending on their kids's needs. Teacher involvement is also highly flexible—parents can adjust their involvement to fit their own schedule and their children's abilities.
How Do These Work?
1st and 2nd edition texts were stand-alone, with everything you needed built in; in the 3rd and 4th editions, teacher's guides are separate. Consumable quizzes and tests (available on CD-ROMs in the 3rd edition) are now digital downloads for the 4th. Answers formerly found in the back of each volume are now contained in the teacher books.
Each lesson includes text read by the parent or student and three sets of exercises. The first, denoted by a blue box, typically includes an experiment or activity designed for a range of age groups. The second exercise tests student comprehension ("What Did We Learn?" and "Taking it Further"). The third, highlighted in green, contains more challenging material: this usually means additional reading, but sometimes more difficult projects. If teachers want to add more, additional worksheets, quizzes and tests are provided on the supplemental download. Most items for the experiments you'll already have. The text is succinct and clear, but not terribly engaging; apparently little attempt was made enliven the facts.
The authors have made this a creationist, Christian curriculum. They balance biblical worldview with science fact and theory so Christian students can contextualize what they learn. These books provide a good overview of science; they aren't exhaustive, but do prepare students for more thorough study in high school.
Our Honest Opinion:
The emphasis on creationism/Christianity is good. Youngsters still formulating a consistent worldview shouldn't have to deal with unchristian dogmas like evolution with no in-text criticism. God is consistently given glory for His creation and kids are encouraged to be awed by scientific study. We really appreciate the breadth of the subjects covered (unlike Apologia's Young Explorer Series, this one has twelve topics to choose from, rather than seven).
Although certainly not universal, the most common complaint we've heard has been that some parents find this curriculum on the dry side, unable to spark their kids' interest. A few of the activities seem purposeless (making construction paper flowers), at least on an educational level, but this is not usually the case. The text is fact-oriented, more like a lecture than a conversation; this will appeal to some students more than others. The color of the 3rd & 4th editions make the series more appealing to most kids.
Overall, this curriculum is well-balanced, a good blend of Christian creationism and solid science fact. A little extra parent involvement could conceivably make the lessons more interesting, and the recommended supplementary reading lists included in the Teacher's Supplements have some fun materials in them. You would be hard pressed to find a more thorough yet Bible-oriented science curriculum for elementary students than the God's Design series.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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