Two years ago, I had the privilege of being part of the group testing Christian Kids Explore Biology. It was a great experience, and the first time I had ever been in on the "birth" of a new program.
Well, now I am here to tell you that the "baby" is doing fine! Stephanie was the most amazing person to work with, as she brought this project to completion. She and Maggie Hogan of Bright Ideas Press are to be congratulated! This is an amazing course and it is even better in its final format than it was on first draft.
CKEB (Christian Kids Explore Biology) was a labor of love for its author and her love shows through the entire book. This manual will help you walk your elementary age student through the basics of biology in a wonderful, gentle, yet truly classical way. Suggested age range is third through sixth grade, but there are tons of activities to include younger and older students. Lots of great reading, new vocabulary, and wonderful hands-on experiments help to solidify topics in the children's minds. A well-organized schedule for completion and excellent resource and reference lists make the book complete. Everything you need to get started is in the one book, and it is so user friendly!
The book is divided into eight units, totaling 35 lessons, and each lesson is designed to be completed in one week. You can choose whether to go two days or three per week. Stephanie suggests two lessons of 60 to 90 minutes each.
For each lesson, there is a Teaching Time and a Hands-on Time. It works perfectly to do each on a separate day. You and your students will build a beautiful student notebook by the time you are done and you will be amazed at how much even the youngest can understand. There is a gorgeous coloring page provided for each unit, perfect for the kids to color while you are reading them the lesson selection. You have permission to copy these for your families use. At the end of each unit, there is a neat wrap up review - "show what you know." You can choose to use these as tests or unit wrap-ups - your choice. Either way, it is surprising to me how much the kids retain.
Now, some of these units are quite in depth. I believe the first unit is the "hardest" in terms of teaching and understanding, especially for the young ones in grades one, two and three. But this is also where you will lay the groundwork for the units to follow, and it is recommended that you do it first. Unit one contains biology basics and breaks down into lessons on creation, cells, taxonomy, biosphere, and food webs. Some of these topics are expanded on later in the book. After the first unit, you can jump around to wherever your students' interests lie. Everything from birds, to insects, to under the sea is covered, as well as a great unit on the human body. Stephanie handles all of these topics with an amazingly gentle approach, keeping in mind the Christian worldview and the truth that we know about creation instead of evolution. Her writing flows well and my son's interest was held at all points. This was exciting to me because my son, at nine years old, is a typical boy. He doesn't like sitting still, and when he does it has to be interesting or he gets serious "wiggle-it is"!
There are great Daily Reading Sheets provided for your lesson time, and for any extra reading you do on the topic. These sheets are filed in the science notebook, along with any other written work, even the coloring sheets. As the notebook fills and builds, it becomes a prized possession and the motivation grows to do even more.
After each session of Hands-on Time, there are experiment forms that make recording of any observations easy! Hands-on Time can be time consuming and some of us may tend to want to skip it (especially after three or four kids previously doing similar things). However, Stephanie strongly encourages you, and I echo her, to take the time with your kids to let them explore. Give them time and room to enjoy the world we live in and all the new things they are learning about it. This will keep your science time from becoming dull, or routine, and will keep the joy alive if you have little "wiggle worms" like I do.
There are great instructions included for making your science notebooks, as well as suggested schedules for how to lay out your lesson time. Stephanie has done this work with her kids, and it shows. She seems to have an innate ability to zero in on what's important to know at this level and leave out the extraneous "fluff"; yet she keeps it very real and very interesting. I found myself saying, "Oh, that's how that works," more than once with my son.
This program also works exceptionally well for a co-op or small group setting. Because it is laid out in a twice weekly format, it is easy to get together for Hands on Time, doing the Lesson Time at home, or get together twice a week and take turns teaching and setting up for projects. I even did it a few weeks in a row with my nephews who could only come once a week. So we did the whole thing in a morning. It was fun, and their attention held through it all. These were mostly boys, ages nine through 11, and one seven-year-old girl. They all soaked up what they could for their ages, and nobody was left behind, or bored. My four-year-old even made a "Days of Creation Week" book. She was not to be left out!
Another fun, year long activity that is encouraged is the building of what Stephanie calls an "ABC book." My nine-year-old rebelled against that title (shades of kindergarten!), so we called it a "science journal." The objective is to find pictures of at least one animal for every letter of the alphabet. Using their own artistic bent, the kids design a page for each letter. Use stickers, stamps, photographs, computer art, pens, markers, crayons - whatever your students want to use - and they can be as creative as they like. For each page, they are to list the phylum and order, even being specific as to species if you like and if your kids are interested. Try to find out what part of the world your animal is from, what the climate is like, etc. You can also make variations on this theme with plants, or plants and animals. We took Stephanie's suggestion - another good one - and bought inexpensive scrapbooks for this project. We worked on them during Hands on Time some weeks, and other times while I was reading aloud, the kids would work on them.
One of the jewels of this book is the fabulous set of appendices Stephanie has included. Here you will find everything from answers to the lesson questions, to clip art for the ABC books, to fantastic extended reading lists - broken apart by unit, no less, making it SO simple to find what you need in a hurry! Extra coloring pages are found in the appendix, supplemental activities by lesson, recipes, even lists of miscellaneous supplemental resources that you may find useful are listed here with the extra reading for each unit. Neat things like Leap pad books that match the topic at hand, as well as games and videos (tons of suggestions here) that may prove helpful are included! All in one book and it is so easy to use!
Now Stephanie readily admits she is not a scientist, but she sure knows her stuff! Her aim is to glorify God in all that she does. I believe she meets that aim very well with this project. The content in this book is comprehensive and very thorough. From taxonomy to anatomy, she has touched on it all. Stephanie has had her writing reviewed and edited for science content by qualified people whom she happily acknowledges! Of course, her love and joy of teaching shines through out the book and her infectious excitement permeates each unit. You can join a very active group at Yahoo groups that discusses and makes suggestions as they work through the book themselves. It is a great place to visit for inspiration and companionship. Stephanie and Maggie Hogan (from Bright Ideas Press) both check in and frequently comment or answer questions. It's like a big home school support group online!
I highly recommend Christian Kids Explore Biology for your first taste of science - classical or otherwise. It may whet your appetite so well that you will never be lured back to textbooks again! Actually, this program even works well as an adjunct to a text-based book, because it provides a fantastic Christian point of view, incorporates Bible throughout, yet remains true to classical education with its emphasis on proper vocabulary, lots of good reading material, and the opportunity to use logic and reason to stretch your students learning experience to the fullest. Any way you use it, this is a great program and I think any family could benefit from its use! Thanks Stephanie, and Maggie. I can't wait for the next volume!
-- Product Review by: Heidi Shaw; The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
And another reviewer's perspective:
Christian Kids Explore Biology
By: Stephanie Redmond
Bright Ideas Press
If you are looking for a flexible, fun, interesting creation/life science program--this is it! Christian Kids Explore Biology is targeted to grades 3-6, but easily adaptable to ages of K-6th grade levels.
Christian Kids Explore Biology is based on a classical approach, using living books, and dives into the basics of biology, humans, plants, mammals, reptiles, insects, birds, and more! I am using this with my children who fall at the younger end of the age levels I listed above...and what a sound, biblical, creation foundation they are gaining!
Christian Kids Explore Biology offers 35 weekly lessons, that are simple to follow in a 'conversational style', and a 'unit by unit' format. The reading and questions in the lessons alone are wonderful, but there are so many ideas and lessons in this book to adapt to our children's own learning styles/bents and age levels. There are hands on projects, bible studies, memorization lists, experiments, beautiful coloring pages (break out the colored pencils--these are nice, & very informative!) suggested reading, topical video suggestions, writing assignments, even field trip suggestions! I like those appropriate scriptures are listed throughout this text, along with tips, ideas and even websites to further your study.
(NOTE: There is a very small, very modest lesson in human reproduction in this book~NO diagrams, no visuals, just text and depending on your preference and children's ages, could be skipped altogether)
We have had a ball with the 'hands-on' projects, such as: the leaf search & leaf rubbings, making paper mache', and 'making dirt' was a pretty big hit in our house! There are a few recipes as well, even one for homemade play-doh!
Christian Kids Explore Biology is a very nice paperback with almost 300 pages of lessons, ideas, projects, references and more. If you are looking for solid teaching in the area of creation/life science, you've just found it! Highly Recommended!
-- Product Review by: Lisa Barthuly & Family, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
And another reviewer's perspective:
Christian Kids Explore Biology
Christian Kids Explore Biology is a one-year curriculum written for children in the third through sixth grades. It should be noted that it is easily adaptable for younger students as well. There are eight units: Biology Basics, Plants, Birds, Mammals, The Human Body, Reptiles, Insects, and Water Creatures. These units are broken down into 35 weekly lessons that include coloring pages, hands-on activities, experiments, and memorization lists. Each lesson consists of a Teaching Time and a Hands-On Time. The lessons are set up so that you can cover each section in two days. This is a nice feature for busy parents who don?t have time to allot for science each day of the week.
By: Stephanie Redmond
Bright Ideas Press
Let's look inside the book to see how the material is covered. First, when beginning a new unit, there is a complete listing of the vocabulary that the child should be learning as well as a list of materials needed for each unit. I love it when these material lists are included, because then I?m not scrambling at the last minute to gather items needed for experiments. I randomly chose Lesson 26?Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins?to discuss in this review. The lesson begins with the text in Teaching Time. Vocabulary words are printed in bold for easy recognition. In the sidebar is a Bible verse as well as room for the parent or student to make some notes. There is not a lot of reading, and it is recommended that you supplement your studies with some books from home or the library (I would do this especially in order to view ?real? pictures of the topic at hand). Each lesson includes a coloring page or diagram. The coloring pages are reproducible if the parent doesn?t want the child coloring in the book. Personally, I?m going to let my child color in the book because this will make a nice keepsake to look back through!
Following the text is a Review It! section. (This is not in all of the lessons. Many of the lessons have a hands-on activity immediately following the text reading.) Next is the Hands-On section, and this chapter on turtles also includes the Unit Seven Wrap-Up, consisting of 15 questions over all of the previous lessons in the unit. This could be used as a test for older children. The Hands-On section in a lesson that is NOT a Unit Review may consist of a mini-Bible study, a simple experiment, a research topic, an art activity, a search-a-word puzzle, a game to make and play, a map activity, etc. A writing assignment is given at the end of each unit. In Lesson 26, this is a creative writing activity for the child to complete in his science notebook. That's it! What an easy-to-use and complete format! For comparison, I randomly chose another lesson?Lesson 33, which covers crustaceans. In this case, the hands-on activity is a cooking lesson with shrimp?how fun (and delicious)!
The next section is a set of appendices containing the following: reproducible forms and maps, memorization lists by unit, Scripture memory cards (more about these in a minute), reproducibles for an Animal Kingdom ABC book, additional coloring pages, recipes, supplemental activities, and, finally, the Answer Key and a Suggested Reading List for the parent. The Scripture memory cards are very nice. I would copy them onto cardstock and have my child color them in and then laminate them and store them together on a ring for future review. I am impressed with how much fun my son and I will have studying biology next year. In keeping with the classical approach, the child is encouraged to keep a science notebook in which to record his vocabulary lists, reading forms, coloring pages/sketches, reports, field trip forms, etc. One nice improvement to the book would be perforated pages, which would make it MUCH easier for the parent who chooses to reproduce the pages for use with multiple children. However, at only $29.95 for the entire book, I think the parent is still getting a great value for the money spent.