Monday, November 11, 2013

Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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 Back in February 2013, we were given the opportunity to review Apologia Educational Ministries' Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day homeschool science curriculum and absolutely fell in love with the Apologia Science program.  Although Luke had tried another high school Chemistry program, he just wasn't happy with it.  Yes, he still has to learn Chemistry, but if he's homeschooling and we have the flexibility to change things, why NOT?  He pulled out Jude's text from before, decided he really liked the program style, and wanted to try Apologia's high school program.  Jude overheard the decision making process and asked, "What's chemistry?" and found out it is a science course that contains potential for "experiments that blow stuff up."  Suddenly, Jude wanted to do Chemistry too.  When Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics was offered for review, I practically begged for the opportunity to work on this one.  A first-grade level explanation of how to explode the universe?  Jude was so excited to get started.

The textbook for this program ($39.) is fairly evenly split between chemistry and physics. Chapters 1 and 2 are a good meld of the two, beginning with shared basics like matter and the differences between solids, liquids, and gases.  Then the book starts to get into details.  Chapters 3, 4 and 5 then focus on chemistry - atoms, compounds, and mixtures - before the focus shifts to physics with motion, energy, sound, and light covered in chapters 6 through 10. A last chapter of a more chemistry-leaning topic - thermodynamics- rounds out the Chemistry offerings, and then the physics course completes with electricity, magnets, and machines.  If you had a student who liked new things often, you could follow trajectory of the text as written; if he preferred to explore one subject fully and then another, it would be very easy to skip around from section to section.

One chapter that overlapped with both Luke and Jude was was thermodyamics.  I got a kick out of Luke trying to explain things to Jude.  Jude also enjoyed working with Luke in a pseudo-lab setting (the kitchen).

I am very particular when it comes to lab safety.  Having been a science major at one point, I've see how even the most careful of scientists can have an accident.  Generally, they have only ended in a mess (a half-full bottle of crystal violet goes a VERY long way), but it is so important to wear goggles (the splash as it bounced thankfully got my goggles, not my eyes).  While all of the experiments in this book used household items, and I tend to think cornstarch isn't going to cause any problems,  I was pleased to see the "You will need..." section of many experiments included "safety goggles."  It is never too early to focus on safety, and the student that wears goggles from the start will be less likely to balk as he gets older -- "put on goggles" will just be automatic.

As much as Jude enjoyed working on formal experiments, we were also able to do "real life" things that brought home the ideas.  For example, when studying thermodynamics (Unit , we learned about heat conduction.  Jude now understands why he doesn't want to leave a metal spoon in a hot pot, and he does want to use "oven mittens" because the heat from the oven will make the cookie sheet hot.

 As we studied crystals, we then looked for them in our daily life.  Sugar in the brownies, salt on our french fries -- all were crystals to examine.  Even Mommy's engagement ring -- a diamond -- is a giant bunch of crystals.  We also found a bunch of great videos on minerals.  

We also found a YouTube video from Bill Nye the Science Guy as we read Lesson 4 and chemical reactions.   We learned chemistry is everywhere!  Jude especially enjoyed learning about chemistry in the kitchen - baking soda + vinegar + a few other ingredients =  "Wacky Cake" for dessert!

Jude watched the chemical reaction as he stirred pancakes - when we added milk to the flour and baking powder, the batter grew.   (And while it may not be quite what he had in mind when he wanted to blow things up, he agreed that the small explosions were delicious.)

While we didn't delve into physics too much, we did do a little bit of study in that field.  We learned about simple machines, and how we use them in our daily lives.  We learned about six simple machines - inclined plane, puley, screw, wedge, lever, and wheel and axle.  While we learned about how ancient civilizations, like the Egyptians, Greeks, and Chinese, used simple machines, we also explored them in our daily lives.

 photo juniornotebookingjournal_zpsa179a078.png Apologia's program includes not just the text book but also companion Notebooking Journals.  Because the general program is geared toward students in Kindergarten through 6th grades, there are two levels of journals.  We worked with the Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics Junior Notebooking Journals  ($24.)  that are meant for the K-2nd grade crowd.  (If you click on the Crew banner below, you will be able to find out how the program worked with the "regular" journals geared toward 3rd-6th graders.)  In addition to the activity and journal pages, the notebook includes coloring pages and copywork.  I like the illustrations that show the "real" applications of the concepts.  For example, one of the illustrations for the unit on Matter is a trio of children panning a stream for gold.

The illustration clearly matches the concept: scooping up liquid water to separate solid gold.  It is also paired beautifully with a verse from Psalm 19:
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.  They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.  (Psalm 19:  9-10)

Coloring is an activity that often gets overlooked once a child starts school.  It not only develops an artistic eye, but the act of coloring itself strengthens small hands to prepare them for writing, develops eye-hand coordination, and helps a child learn to control the pressure and speed of his hand.  Jude receives occupational therapy once a week, and often his OT would ask for schoolwork for him to do, so that he wasn't having an hour of OT and then having to go home and do school besides. Many of his coloring pages were filled in at the hospital.

Jude and Miss Amanda also usually do a copywork page, so he can work on his handwriting.  This is a fine motor skill Jude needs practice with, but also it's a focusing skill that is hard for him.  20 consecutive minutes of seated work is one of our goals, and handwriting a Bible verse takes him between five and ten minutes, a good start towards his goal.

Damien (PK3) also joined in the fun!  He had his own Junior Notebook as well.  While he stuck mostly to coloring in the notebook, rather than even dictating facts,  he sat and listened as we read the textbook lessons aloud.  He thought the gems in Unit 4 were pretty, and was excited when we made and compared paper snowflakes, stand-ins for the crystal-based real ones.  His snowflake and Jude's snowflake were different, just like they are!

Even though it is written as a program for young students, Apologia's Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics is not a lightweight course.  The explanations and examples in the text are simple enough for a younger student begin to grasp the fundamentals of chemistry and physics, but expansive enough for an older student to be well prepared to move on to higher level courses. Even after having read entire chapters aloud, I believe we will be able to return to each one as each boy gets older, and revisit concepts and lab experiments as their understanding grows.  What we liked most was it made chemistry and physics FUN, which is what science should be all about!


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