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The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Thinking About Science Series

By Rebecca Stark
Educational Impressions

116 Washington Ave.
Hawthorne, NJ 07507

The Thinking About Science Series is made up of four 48-page unit workbooks: The Human Body, Ecology, Our Solar System, and Our Ever-Changing Earth. They are complete unit studies but could also complement your main science program. These differ from other science books because they provide "opportunities to practice crucial critical- and creative-thinking skills," through creative writing, experimenting, research, analyzing, evaluating, and logic. Each book has an introductory page about the specific science to be covered. Informational pages with straightforward text introduce important concepts and vocabulary with the help of clear black-and-white diagrams. Topics in Ecology include biomes, classification of organisms, food chains, symbiosis, ecosystems, rain forests, grasslands, and deserts. These short but info-packed sections are followed by across-the-curriculum ideas for using and applying what you learn, and this often requires outside research. Answers, background information, and a bibliography are included in the back. While there are some standard activity pages (crossword, matching, word search, and a Jeopardy-type game), most are unconventional. Math, art, history, and writing are all used. Here is an example from Our Solar System: "Research the Milky Way. Make a 5-card fact file about the galaxy." And another is "Create a lesson to demonstrate to a younger child why the moon and the sun appear to be about the same size to us."

Although the books are designed for grades 4 through 8, most children on the younger end of that spectrum will need help accomplishing the various assignments. Certainly these books could be used with high school students. With younger children the activities would be best done as a group, whether family or class.

Students who are really into science, especially those who love research, would enjoy these books. So would those children who like art and creative, "out of the box" thinking. For example, one of the ideas in Our Ever-Changing Earth is to "Create a detailed travel poster for a tour of the U.S.A. including at least 5 interesting land formations caused by erosion or weathering." I think this series would appeal to unit study folks, unschoolers, and lap-book fans, as well as homeschoolers who use a more traditional approach.

Parents will want to note that Our Ever-Changing Earth assumes a 4.6-billion-year-old earth and The Human Body places humans in the primate class.

This is a great series for parents who are looking for "thinking projects" to expand their science studies as a family. It would also be a super-fun way to teach research skills.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, January 2007

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