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Dr. Rebecca Keller subscribes to the "open inquiry" approach to science education—kids should be taught to analyze data and learn to draw their own conclusions, aware of what scientists actually know and what is merely conjecture. The problem with American science education, she maintains, is that the different scientific disciplines are not taught cohesively or in context, or in relation to the other academic disciplines. Real Science-4-Kids attempts to address these issues with a full elementary course for K-8th grade, integrating math and the sciences in the course texts along with supplementary tie-in texts relating science to art, literature, philosophy, etc.
How Do These Work?
Real Science-4-Kids started out offering only unit-based courses on biology, chemistry and physics, and over time Dr. Keller added courses on geology and astronomy. These original books have been revised and are now called the "Focus On" science series, which is currently fully available in elementary (K-4) and middle school (5-8) editions; Chemistry also has a high school course. More recently, Keller has taken much of the content of these units and combined them into specific grade level books called the "Exploring the Building Blocks of Science." Each Building Blocks course covers all five topics. These are currently available for grades K through 6, with 7th grade expected summer of 2016, and 8th grade in 2017.
None of the courses are comprehensive. The series is meant to provide foundational knowledge of science and its uses so that students will at least be familiar with terminology and concepts when they study science more deeply in high school. Each level set includes a student text, laboratory workbook, and teacher's manual. The teacher's manual includes answers to all written work as well as detailed instructions for completing hands-on experiments and extra information for expanding the material in the student texts. The laboratory workbook is a black-and-white consumable text containing experiments and written assignments. The student text is a colorful hardcover engagingly written and illustrated, the core of each course.
Each student text includes 10 chapters, for each of which there is a corresponding experiment in the laboratory workbook. Experiments can generally be completed with household goods, and those items you don't have laying around are easily procured. The texts are clearly written and even if you don't know much about science you shouldn't have trouble leading your students through the material.
The Kogs-4-Kids workbooks (so far only available for Level I Chemistry) help kids understand the place and interaction of science in the broader academic world. Students read text and complete written assignments that relate science to history, philosophy, art, etc. The focus is still science and not the subject to which it is being related, but the integration approach to knowledge helps kids understand no subject is a vacuum and starts them on the road to a true liberal arts education.
Our Honest Opinion:
These are by no means comprehensive texts, but they weren't intended to be. They are introductions to scientific education and study, and are concerned with getting students to think critically for themselves. While not as in-depth as the God's Design series, this is one of the better foundational courses for younger students, laying a groundwork that is more-than-cursory, yet not too confusing. The Kogs-4-Kids are also very helpful and contain plenty of the more obscure information that makes studying any subject interesting and fun.
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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