Jane Hoffman—who has a doctorate in education—cites Jean Piaget’s observations of children’s developmental psychology as explanation of her approach to teaching elementary science through experimentation. This isn’t a “complete science course” (whatever that is, really), but it is a fun introduction that will provide kids hands-on experience with the scientific method and help them when they study science more thoroughly in later grades.
How Do These Work?
The Original Backyard Scientist was Hoffman’s first book in the series and was written broadly for ages 4-12. This is followed by a series of four books covering the same age range, though you could use them with older kids just as easily. Explore Earthworms with Me and A Science Wonderland for the Very Young are supplements (Earthworms is for ages 4-12, Science Wonderland is aimed at ages 2-7). There is also a teacher’s manual for the main series of four books with in-depth answers to all text questions and some supplementary information.
There are no lessons, just experiments. Required materials are either found around the house or readily available at the store. Each experiment begins with questions that are generally only answerable upon completion of the investigation. Subjects covered include earth science, chemistry, physics, and biology, though not by name and not systematically. Teacher supervision is required, especially with younger kids, but don’t worry—the only time you really need to spend in preparation is the time actually doing the activities with your students.
Each experiment concludes with an explanation and a series of questions to help illuminate the material learned. This is very much based on the Socratic method (asking questions to draw out what students already know) and on the premise that kids learn best through hands-on learning. Many of the projects will make a mess, but they will doubtless stay with your kids longer than if they simply read the information. An easy, conversational tone and funny drawings will also help keep their interest.
Our Honest Opinion:
While these don’t have a specifically Christian orientation there isn’t really anything offensive or at odds with a Christian worldview here. Kids get a good grasp of the scientific method and learn a lot of basic science facts. More importantly, science is portrayed as fun, thus casting in a positive light a subject often maligned by those who had bad school experiences. If you want your kids to enjoy science from a young age and still have a good foundation to build on, Backyard Scientist is an excellent place to start.
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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