Great Science Adventures

The Great Science Adventures books are intended to add a constructive element to science instruction that takes the edge off simply reading and memorizing facts. Students and parents both do a lot of cut and paste activity, constructing folded books in which students record information. There are also a number of "Lots of Science Library Books" in the back of each text that can be photocopied and which contain key facts about important concepts. The learning approach is "hands-on," which sometimes means experiments but more often means craft-oriented activities.

Each of the eleven volumes is self-contained and inexpensive. Like many elementary science curricula, the course is designed for use by 1st-8th graders; none of the books were written for only one grade level, instead integrating information to be taught at different levels. Parents teaching children of different ages especially appreciate this, as lessons can be adapted for multiple kids at once.

How Do These Work?

The 11-volume course centers around the use of "Lots of Science Library Books" containing information about a variety of science subjects. The "books" are contained in the back of each volume—teachers photocopy as many as they need, cut them out, and fold them together. The authors encourage teachers to have students group these foldbooks according to general topic and store them in plastic bags for easy reference. Most of the science information for the series is contained inthe small 16-page illustrated books; supplementary material is in the lesson plans in bulleted form. Teachers are also responsible for making a graphic organizer for each volume that shows in basic form what the students have learned so far.

In each of the 24 lessons, students make a Lots of Science Library Book using the masters provided inside. Information, pictures and diagrams make the study of plants meaningful.

Lots of Science Library Books (2.5'' x 4'' when finished) can be photocopied for each student.

For lab activities, the Investigative Loop process helps students get the most from their experience. Complete and clear directions are provided, along with materials lists, questions to ask, and data for students to record.
3D Graphic Organizers make complicated material simple. Students see and touch each part, increasing understanding and retention. Teacher Pages include vocabulary words, concept maps, assessments, assignments for all grade levels, and enrichment activities.

These are fairly teacher intensive, but not in the typical sense. Teachers are required to do a lot of pre-lesson preparation in the form of cutting and pasting and coloring. Most lessons include a hands-on activity or experiment illustrating the topic; these generally require common household items listed at the bottom of each teacher's page. The "Experiences, Investigations, and Research" portion of each lesson provides suggestions for helping older students learn more on their own, but doesn't provide any list of resources other than Google. Parents wanting their kids to get a more thorough science introduction will need to compile their own reading lists, especially if they're using this series for older elementary kids. (If you want ready-made reading lists, refer to the Christian Kids Explore series.)

There are currently eleven books in the series, covering aspects of life science, physical science, and earth science. Each volume is independent, so you can start with any one you want, even if your child has no previous science experience. The books are also stand-alone and reproducible; there are no separate teacher's guides, answer keys, or workbooks—everything for student and teacher is included in one softcover volume.

Our Honest Opinion:

While this series could be a good basic introduction for younger kids, it's definitely not thorough enough to be used all the way through eighth grade as the authors suggest. These books may well motivate younger kids to study science—it will definitely keep them busy and introduce them to a huge subject in small, digestable doses. Older students will probably find the activities too childish to be interesting.

This does come from a Christian publisher, though the texts themselves are not specifically Christian in approach. At the same time, there isn't offensive material here—the authors are tactful and objective.

The concept of these books—getting kids to do their own research—is a good one, but since the authors don't really provide students with enough tools for such research, we have a hard time seeing these as very helpful. The lack of good teacher support (there aren't even any resource lists) will make it difficult for a parent who doesn't know much about science to ensure their kids know what they need to know.

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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Discovering Atoms, Molecules, and Matter
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Great Science Adventures
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from Common Sense Press
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