Discovering Design with Earth Science

Discovering Design with Earth Science

by Dr. Jay Wile
Publisher: Berean Builders
Price: $69.00

See series description for full review.

This laboratory-based earth science course can be used for either eighth or ninth grade.  Most homeschooled students should be ready for it in eighth grade, but privately- and publicly-schooled students will be more comfortable with it in ninth grade.  It covers the general properties of the earth’s geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere.  Students learn about all the sections of the geosphere (such as core, mantle, crust, etc.) and then they study each in more detail.  When studying the earth’s crust, they learn about minerals, rocks, and the rock cycle.  Plate tectonics is then covered, which leads to a discussion of seismic waves, earthquakes, and volcanoes.  Students then learn about fossils and how both uniformitarians and catastrophists interpret those fossils as well as the sedimentary rocks in which they are found.  A discussion that compares uniformitarianism and catastrophism follows, in which the strengths and weaknesses of each view are covered.

After that, the hydrosphere is discussed.  Students first learn the properties of water such as polarity, the ability to hydrogen bond, and heat capacity.  That leads to a discussion of the hydrologic cycle and residence time.  Students then learn about the waves, currents, and tides in the ocean.  They then move on to the ice reservoirs on the earth and then the freshwater reservoirs.  Water in the air is the last part of the hydrosphere that is covered.  The atmosphere is then discussed, including the composition of air, the sections of the atmosphere, temperature gradients, and pollutants.  This leads to a discussion of weather.  The course ends with two chapters on space, one that covers the solar system and one that covers the universe as a whole.

There are roughly 55 hours of laboratory instruction in the course.  A kit that contains specific minerals, rocks, and fossils allows students to do very detailed experiments related to the geosphere. These include mineral tests, rock analyses, fossil studies, density investigations, and magnetic property explorations.  Students also get hands-on experience with waves, gases, wind, water purification, cloud formation, the Coriolis effect, precipitation, and acid/base interactions.

A Note About the Experiments:

Laboratory exercises are integrated into the course and are designed to illustrate many of the concepts that are discussed. In order to do the vast majority of the laboratory exercises, a specially-designed kit is required. It costs only $70 and includes many items, including specimens of specific minerals, rocks, and fossils, specimens of various sediments, a digital mass scale that is accurate to 0.1 grams, a graduated cylinder, a hand lens, a magnet, etc. With this kit, the student can perform a total of 56 experiments that are scattered throughout the 16 chapters of the course. Many of the laboratory exercises are very similar to what real earth scientists do. Students do hardness tests, streak tests, optical tests, and magnetic tests on minerals, and they then use what they learned to help them identify minerals in rock samples. They also do percolation tests on sediments, density measurements on rocks, and a heat capacity analysis. In addition, they perform detailed analyses of 5 fossils that are included in the kit (clam, brachiopod, shark’s tooth, petrified wood, and crinoid stem). In laboratory exercises related to the earth’s hydrosphere, students explore the properties of waves, the Coriolis effect, the differences between freshwater and saltwater, and the way evaporation works. When they student weather, they explore air pressure, why temperature changes with altitude, how wind is made, what makes the sky blue, how raindrops grow in clouds, and why we sweat. In the laboratory exercises related to space, students learn how to do spectroscopy, how the sun maintains its size, and how we measure the distance to nearby stars.

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