Thursday, September 3, 2009

Not a lot of substance

Dh recently surprised me with two older edition (1997) elementary school science curriculum books, An Elementary Insights Hands-On Inquiry Science Curriculum K-1: Living Things and 2-3: Habitats from Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company. The emphasis is decidedly on encouraging children to make predictions, classify, and record observations and there is not much learning of the "why" behind what they're observing. (This is not a sensible approach, in my opinion, for I think that little children are interested in learning the actual reasons for things and that they are still too ignorant to make intelligent predictions. Shouldn't the beginning school years be when children are learning foundational facts and principles of science rather than being asked constantly to make guesses which are often wrong?) I was disappointed at the dearth of actual science content in the books. For example, K-1: Living Things (one of five modules for the K-1 age group) is over 200 pages long but has just a seven-page information summary at the end of the manual. 2-3: Habitats has only three pages of science background for the teacher. The K-1: Living Things manual's "Learning Experiences" are as follows:
  1. Using Your Senses
  2. A Walk Outdoors
  3. Planting Bean Seeds
  4. A Walk to Look for Trees
  5. Tree Shapes
  6. Leaf Shapes
  7. The Needs of Living Things
  8. Observing Animals
  9. The Needs of Bean Plants
  10. Inferring and Comparing the Needs of Living Things
  11. Planning a Terrarium
  12. Gathering Material and Planting a Terrarium
  13. Collecting Animals for a Terrarium
I've already covered most of this material and more with my four-year-old. We have a small yard with a garden, she had me plant her some bean seeds in a cup (her initiative, not mine) a couple of weeks ago, and she is always bringing home some leaf or pine cone. Then there are the nature videos and books, the frequent family walks, the trips to the zoo, our goldfish, etc.

If this book is an example of the breadth and depth I'm expected to cover in kindergarten science with my child, I've worried for nothing. After all, just this afternoon, we talked about platelets clotting in her nose capillaries (she had a bloody nose, probably from picking it) and researched the Kuiper belt on the internet (she had picked up a book about Pluto and was "reading" it to me).

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