We are primarily using Bernard Nebel’s Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding K-2 book. So far, it is a great success, but I admit, we’ve just barely begun. When I first reviewed the book, I was impressed with the author’s guiding principles as explained in the introductory material, but when I looked at the actual lessons, I thought it had some problems (mostly hierarchy issues). However, it was too cold to go outside and start making observations of the sky, and Sam seemed ready for some kind of science, so I decided to just plunge in to this book.
I was surprised to find that Sam did understand and was totally interested in the first lessons. One that shocked me was the lesson on solids, liquids, and gasses. When I saw that as a title of one of the first few lessons, I thought it was out-of-sequence, but when I got into the details of the lesson, it was all direct observation, and just putting names to things. Since another of the early lessons is about categorization, it made a lot of sense to Sam to try to put all things in to one of these three states-of-matter categories. Now she goes around noting things like, “Coke is a liquid! Steam is a gas!”
Another lesson was a field trip – a walk around the neighborhood – to collect a bunch of stuff, and then to come home and put it into one of three other categories: biological, natural non-living, or man-made. We had already played “natural or man-made” (great game for the car, by the way) so often that the only new idea was the split between biological and natural but non-living. I was surprised to see how few natural-non-living things we picked up. But Nebel does a great job preparing the instructor, and he pointed out that most kids will pick up dirt and rocks, but they won’t think of air and water. (He also helps you think ahead about things that could go into more than one category, like mulch made out of tree-bark, and gives you suggestions on rules to follow for consistency, and dialogue for explaining why to the child.) Since the lesson was geared towards a classroom full of kids who all bring in different stuff, Sam and I didn’t have as much variety, but I did bring back a jar of air. And after we sorted everything into three boxes, we looked at what we had. I asked Sam about the natural-non-living stuff and asked her a few leading questions and then asked if she thought there was anything else on the earth that she could think of that fit in this category, and she said, “water!” That was one of my most fulfilling moments as a teacher. I didn’t expect that she could figure that out, and I give Nebel the credit for giving her the exact right context. Now that is a properly sequenced curriculum!
As science goes, I don’t think the book requires all that much prep work from the teacher, but it definitely could be organized in a more easy-to-use fashion. But I know of no other full science curriculum that is any good at all. I feel so lucky that we have this. Nebel also runs a Yahoo group for educators who are using the book, and he gives personal answers to all kinds of questions, which is amazing service. I am thrilled with this book!
I wish I could remember who recommended this book to me. If you’re reading this, please remind me so I can thank you.