The world around us is fascinating. God has created pine trees, stars, river beds, monarch butterflies, simple machines, and billions of other things that attract and deserve the attention of all kinds of people. Kids generally have an innate interest in the concrete aspects of science, yet because we tend to over-intellectualize a very non-abstract discipline, they often lose interest before they can get to the good stuff.
Fortunately, there are programs that guide kids in the tangible elements of science study with the goal of simply getting them interested while simultaneously laying a foundation for more in-depth study. Memoria Press Science is one of those, bringing together a number of resources to introduce astronomy, bird study, insect study, and the books in John Hudson Tiner's excellent series Exploring Creation.
How Do These Work?
The Book of Astronomy is the first in the series. Intended for grades 3+, there's a student book and a teacher guide; the content for both is identical, except that the teacher guide includes answers to all student exercises, and an appendix with various teaching helps. These extra helps include extra information, overheads, definitions and pronunciation guides, a zodiac chart, and unit tests. There are no other teacher resources, but you shouldn't need them, especially at this stage.
Four units cover the basics of naked-eye astronomy. The first three units cover the major constellations during summer-fall, winter, and spring; unit four is about the solar system and some of its salient features (like dwarf planets, moons, etc.). There is text to read, charts and illustrations to study, and exercises to complete. The goal is to get kids familiar with the major features of the night sky and the basics of astronomy as a science.
For grades 4+, The Book of Insects - Package introduces young observational scientists to the study of creepy-crawlies. At the center is The Book of Insects Reader and the Peterson First Guide to Insects of North America: the reader is a conversational narrative-based introduction to the study of insects, and the guide is a full-color field guide for the identification of all types of insects along with vital facts about each one.
A supplementary workbook provides exercises related to the content children learn in the reader, and mostly involve written answers and identification. The teacher key provides answers to all exercises in the workbook, along with tests and answers to be administered throughout the course. There is a model lesson plan in the teacher key, but you'll have to design your own for the rest of the year; fortunately, exercises in the workbook are keyed to appropriate pages in the reader.
Birds are the focus of the program for grades 5+. This is by far the most colorful of all the courses, with the Peterson First Guide to Birds of North America, Birds (Peterson Field Guide Color-In Books), and a book called What's That Bird? which is an introduction to ornithology (the study of birds) and bird-watching for kids. Each of these books is colorful and engaging, but also high in content and information.
A What's That Bird? - Student Book offers comprehension and identification exercises for students. The teacher guide presents answers to student book exercises, tests with answers, and a model lesson plan to help you design your own. Because the study of birds is largely an observational science, these books are all oriented toward helping your children learn to identify different types of birds, though learning facts about those birds is not neglected.
Older students (grades 5-8) are directed to John Hudson Tiner's Exploring Science series. Each title takes an engaging and unique narrative approach to major fields of science: physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, mathematics, and the history of medicine; Tiner's book on nature/ecology wasn't included by Memoria Press. (Memoria Press recommends following their birds course with Tiner's Exploring the History of Medicine for one year's worth of work.)
For each of the Tiner titles listed above, Cooper Boldrick and Ashley Gratto have written corresponding student guides, complete with exercise questions, reviews, and tests. The first half of each guide is for the student, and the second half contains answers to all questions and exercises. Some of the content is fairly difficult (in the physics guide, for instance, students solve equations), but all the information they need is in the Tiner texts.
All of the Memoria Press Science courses are designed as introductions, and all of them focus on the observational and objective aspects of science, rather than the theoretical and subjective. Each course is designed to be used over one school year, and each course is easily adapted to a range of grade levels and abilities. Every program lends itself to either teacher- or student-directed study, though we'd encourage a teacher-directed approach at these levels and for these topics.
Our Honest Opinion
You wouldn't want to rely on these courses for your student's entire science education, but since younger students don't need as much hard science as older ones, they're a great place to start. Memoria Press's typical stripped-down approach works very well here, and will prime kids for further study rather than overwhelming them off the bat. This is more of a Charlotte Mason approach than Classical-style education, which works perfect for younger learners.
For older students, we'd recommend looking at Apologia Exploring Creation, Jay Wile's extensive program for middle and high school students that uses a textbook format to ground kids in hard scientific facts and theory from a Christian and creationist perspective. By the time kids are ready for those, hopefully their work with the Memoria Press Science materials will have got them past the initial fear of or dislike for science, and they'll be begging for more.
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.
Did you find this review helpful?