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Science Detective A1 Review by Kathy Gelzer

Deandra Dean-McLeod
Sharon Allain Smith
The Critical Thinking Company
PO Box 1610
Seaside, CA 93955

What comes to mind when you hear the title Science Detective?  I imagine short narrative mysteries that require scientific expertise to solve, something like the Encyclopedia Brown book series.  Well, Science Detective A1 isn’t quite that, but it does exercise the thinking processes of fifth and sixth graders as they read the one page lessons and answer the two pages of corresponding questions.
A total of 45 lessons in three areas of science (physical, life, and earth) gives an introduction, review opportunity, or standardized test practice for students as they read the text—it is suggested they do this twice—and answer the true/false, multi-choice, short answer, and fill-in questions.  What distinguishes this book from other similar curriculum is the requirement that students support every answer by referencing the sentence(s) of the text they use. This procedure ensures thoroughness and provides a self-check.  Each sentence of the lesson is numbered with a superscript.
Plenty of bolded new vocabulary is introduced in the texts, and comprehension of these words is tested in the questions.  Creating science vocabulary flash cards is an optional activity suggested in the introduction that I would heartily recommend.
Physical Science is comprised of 16 lessons about matter, chemicals, energy, simple machines, and electricity.  Life Science has 18 lessons about cells, genetics, various body systems, classes of organisms, plants, animals, biomes, and ecosystems.   Earth Science has 11 lessons discussing plate tectonics, rocks and minerals, natural resources, the ocean, astronomy, and weather. 
The lessons include detailed graphs, charts, and diagrams.  The student’s ability to synthesize the information in the graphics is also tested in the question section.
Two longer “Written Response Questions” wrap up the question pages.  These questions are a true test of the child’s ability to apply all of what he has learned to real-life situations.  Science Detective A1 thoroughly integrates reading, writing, thinking, and science.
The book includes introductions to both teachers and students, a skill chart of National Science Education Standards, scoring and grading help, and a Science Detective Certificate.  Answers are included in the back of the book.

There is no fluff here, and the material is not easy.  Some children may need to work with an adult or older sibling as they begin the program.  I would not recommend Science Detective A1 if your student is not performing at grade level as it would likely lead to frustration.  However, if you are looking for test prep science reading material for your logic-stage child this is an excellent choice.

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2008