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God's Design Science Curriculum Review by Tina RiceBy Richard and Debbie Lawrence
Answers in Genesis Publishers
PO Box 510
Hebron, KY 41048
The God's Design science curriculum is a comprehensive science curriculum for grades 1 to 8. It covers life science, earth science, chemistry, and physical science. Lessons are hands-on and require household items for experiments and projects. God's Design is flexible, is multi-level, has a Christian worldview, does not contain millions of years, requires minimal teacher preparation, and is FUN! Several years ago, before Answers in Genesis began distributing this curriculum, I reviewed God's Design for Heaven and Earth and God's Design for Life. I still enthusiastically recommend these books as the best elementary-middle school science books I have seen.
God's Design for Heaven and Earth (3-Volume Set)
If you are looking for twaddle-free earth science material for elementary students, take a close look at God's Design for Heaven and Earth (GDFHE). This set of books presents earth science to children in an enjoyable, educational, and structured way. Use the three books together as a one-year science program, or teach each book separately. They work together but can also be used independently. Each book contains 34-35 lessons.
What I like best about GDFHE is that it is EASY for a busy parent to teach. The directions are clear, there are no outlandish experiments, and the games and facts are fun. Each book contains a master supply list, and most items are things that families will have at home. Therefore, you won't have to make late-night trips to the store to buy necessary science experiment supplies.
Each lesson is divided into several sections beginning with a supply list. At our home, a typical lesson and experiment takes 30-40 minutes, including set up, teaching, and clean up. Lessons end with "What did we learn?" questions to help you determine how much your child learned. A section titled "Taking it further" offers resources for more in-depth study of the lesson. Unit quizzes, a final test, word games, and special features are included in each book.
GDFHE is a rock-solid science program for elementary students. It appeals to a wide age range (I have used it with a 4-year-old, 2nd grader, 4th grader and 6th grader) and is easy to teach in a co-op setting. This program will please classical, traditional, and relaxed educators (and most anyone else). I highly recommend GDFHE.
God's Design for Life
God's Design for Life, a series of three books, is a comprehensive and FUN life science curriculum for the elementary grades. The books, which are titled The Human Body, The World of Plants, and The Animal Kingdom, can be used collectively or singly. Each book contains 32 to 35 lessons, unit quizzes, projects, special features, a resource guide, a supply list, an answer key, and a detailed "How do I teach science?" section. If you devote about three hours a week to the teaching of this material, you can finish the series in a year. I enjoyed all three books and found that they appeal to a wide range of ages. Though they are designed for elementary students, older students will not find the material simplistic. The required supplies are not difficult to acquire. (There were only two items from the three books I did not have at home). A grocery store and craft shop will provide everything you need. However, there are three optional supplies (an owl pellet, tadpoles and tank, and butterfly larvae) that you will need to order if you want to delve deeper into The Animal Kingdom.
Topics covered in The Human Body include cells, tissues and organs, the skeletal and muscular systems, the circulatory and respiratory systems, and genetics. The Animal Kingdom covers mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, invertebrates, insects, and more. The World of Plants covers seeds, flowers, trees, leaves, meat-eating plants, tropism, ferns, mosses and algae, and fungi (see samples at AiG's website).
Gods Design for Life is the best life science curriculum I have used with my children. (I have also used The Human Body at our homeschool co-op to teach a group of 30 children in grades K-8. They all thoroughly enjoyed the material.) I appreciate the minimal lesson preparation and the fact that the books were written for homeschoolers by homeschoolers. The hands-on experiments are fun, easy, and (best of all) educational. My favorite experiment was making a model of a cell using Jell-O, grapes, raisins, and a shoebox.
God's Design For Chemistry
God's Design for Chemistry (GDFC) is the third set in the God's Design science series. Originally published in 2004, it went into a second printing in 2006. The Chemistry series contains two books titled Properties of Matter and Properties of Atoms & Molecules. GDFC is designed for older elementary (3rd grade +) and middle school students. Atoms & Molecules has 35 lessons, 7 quizzes, a unit project and a final test. Matter has 34 lessons, 6 quizzes, a unit project, and a final test. Both books contain test answers, resource guides, supply lists, reproducible pages, special features, and an index.
From a visual standpoint, the second printing of God's Design for Chemistry is first-rate. The cover is printed on heavier cardstock than before, and there are more photographs and graphics. The new feature I really like is the chapter markings printed on the edge of each page. This makes finding the chapter you want much easier than before.
If you are wondering why you should teach chemistry to an elementary student, you are not alone. When I think of chemistry I think of high school and college classes, Bunsen burners, and icky smells. However, chemistry is fun and interesting to younger students, and studying chemistry helps them to understand the amazing work of God!
My 10 and 6-year-olds have really enjoyed working with GDFC. Even my two high school students have enjoyed listening in on our science time. As with earlier God's Design books, GDFC is easy to teach, interesting, God-honoring, and thorough. Any student who uses both books during upper elementary or middle school will be well prepared for advanced science study. If you wish to use both books for a year-long study of chemistry, plan to spend two or three days per week covering two lessons per week. This will give you time to teach the material in the books and to delve into topics of interest to your students.
I think that any type of homeschoolers and any type of learner will enjoy and benefit from God's Design for Chemistry. And they would make a great reference tool--even for someone who isn't school-age! I am so thankful that Debbie and Richard Lawrence continued their science series. I highly recommend GDFC.
God's Design for the Physical World
God's Design for the Physical World (GDFPW) was written for students in 3rd to 8th grade. Younger and older students can also enjoy GDFPW with a bit of modification. The series consists of three books: Heat and Energy, Machines and Motion, and Inventions and Technology. Each book has 35 lessons, unit projects, information on interesting people and places, a resource guide, a master supply list, answers to quizzes and tests, and a comprehensive index. To complete GDFPW in a typical school year, you will need to teach three lessons per week. Each lesson I taught took between 40 and 60 minutes. Plan to spend extra time on areas where your students are very interested.
You will not need to take out a loan to buy the supplies to teach GDFPW. With the exception of a metal slinky, a golf ball, copper wire, steel bb's, a navigational compass, and black paint (for building a solar oven) I had everything I needed for all the experiments. As with previous God's Design books, the authors have made teaching science easy and fun!
At our house a typical lesson goes like this: I read, we experiment, and I ask questions. Here is a summary of what we did in lesson 14, "The Rocket Engine," in Inventions and Technologies:
1) I gathered needed supplies from the pantry: balloons, tape, string, tag board, and a soda straw.
2) I read the lesson to my children.
3) We did the experiment. For this lesson we created a balloon rocket in the kitchen using the supplies I had gathered.
4) I asked Abigail and Daniel the following 'What did we learn?' questions:
- Who first explained the scientific principles behind rockets?
- What is the Third Law of Motion?
- Who is considered the father of modern rocketry?
- What is a propellant?
- What are the three types of rocked fuel used today?
Because they had listened (and paid attention) while I was reading the lesson, they were able to answer these questions. (If they don't listen well, we go over the correct answers.)
5) I read the "Fun Fact" and then dismissed Daniel (1st grader).
6) Abigail and I went over the "Taking it Further" section and discussed
- What are two important things that an engineer must consider when designing a rocket engine?
- Why do you think model rocket engines are made from solid rocket fuel?
- Many rockets burn their fuel in two or three stages. Why might they be designed this way?
- How can a rocket engine work in space where there is not air?
- Would you expect a rocket engine to be more or less efficient in space?
7) Abigail was done. If she were in 7th or 8th grade, I would have assigned the challenge assignment to research the V-2 rocket project.
8) I put away the leftover supplies. Total time: 54 minutes.
My kids and I really like God's Design for the Physical World. Each book is interesting and can be used alone. If you use them together you have a powerful one-year science curriculum! I have not seen another science program that compares to the Lawrences' material. I give GDFPW five stars!