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Great Science Adventures: The World of Space Review by Melanie Reynolds

Susan Simpson (featuring Graphic Organizers by Dinah Zike)
Common Sense Press
(352) 475-5757
8786 Highway 21
Melrose, FL 32666
http://www.commonsensepress.com/

Common Sense Press has designed a full-spectrum science curriculum in its fascinating series, Great Science Adventures. This series is divided into three segments: earth, physical, and life sciences. We received the Great Science Adventures: The World of Space to use and review; this fit in quite nicely with our homeschool science plans, as we’d already planned to include astronomy as one of our sciences for the year. The World of Space provides a fantastic overview of many components of astronomy study, along with interesting experiments to further teach each chapter’s concepts and grant students more in-depth study.

The World of Space is an 8 1/2” x 11” softcover workbook that contains a teacher’s manual, the curriculum itself, consumables (which may be copied for students) in the form of both mini-books (the Lots of Science Library Books) and Graphics Pages for various projects, activities, and experiments. It is priced at $24.00.

The World of Space covers a broad spectrum of space-related concepts, scientific history, and exploration. Here are some of the fascinating topics covered in the 24-chapter book:

  • Stars, the sun, galaxies, and the solar system
  • The planets of our solar system
  • Eclipses, the moon, asteroid belts, comets, and meteors
  • Early astronomers, space exploration, and life in space

There are several things I found to be quite unique about The World of Space. First, this curriculum is designed to be used for any student between the grades of K-8. All of the lessons have a list of concepts to be studied and mastered, as well as vocabulary, reading, activities, and lists for further studies of each concept. Each of the activities has instructions for students in K-2, 3-5, or 6-8. So, the difficulty levels of the assignments range from the simple (for the younger students) to intermediate (for grades 3-5) to more complex for the oldest middle school students using this curriculum.

Another unique component of this project is its very design. Regardless of whether your student is an auditory, a visual, or a kinesthetic learner, there are opportunities to exercise each type of learning skill or ability scattered throughout this book’s pages. There are so many hands-on projects and experiments, and the entire design of the Graphics Pages provides opportunities for students to do a lot of folding, writing, coloring, and so on as they create the various visual helps for the lessons. These include everything from timelines to layered books, top tab books, and more graphic organizers created by Dinah Zike. These vary the learning activities and help students be very hands-on in gathering information and internalizing the topics being taught. Each chapter begins with a Lots of Science Library Book, a mini-book which outlines and illustrates the lesson’s key points. There are also activities and experiments in each lesson. Parents of older students will be delighted by the additional activities recommended in each chapter; there are lists of incredible books to read, topics for Internet research, and even more experiments. (You’ll need to provide your own computer for this, and the books for additional reading can generally be located at the public library.) Here are some of our favorite activities offered:

  • Observe the Big Dipper and draw the night sky where it appears. Explain how it changes and why.
  • Create a “night-friendly” flashlight for stargazing.
  • Make a “Patch Word Quilt” star organizer.
  • Direct the sun’s rays on a bar of chocolate through a magnifying glass. What happens and why?
  • Create your own lunar eclipse.
  • Investigate the debate over whether or not Pluto is a planet.

Another aspect of The World of Space that I really appreciated is that it does not define the age of the earth or the universe. Common Sense Press specifically states on the company website, in the FAQ section, that it does not address the origins of the universe or how old it is. It just states the actual and provable facts about the universe. This approach made the curriculum even more enjoyable for us.

I believe that The World of Space is a fun and exciting way to teach astronomy, whether it’s used in a homeschool, a private or public school, or even by a parent who just wants to provide more learning opportunities for his child. All students will enjoy the experiments, and the additional learning opportunities provided in each lesson’s “Experiences, Investigations and Research” section will challenge older students or those who are just fascinated with science or astronomy. Since my child is a seventh grader, we really needed to add those extra learning activities to make the lessons age-appropriate and challenging. Fortunately for us, The World of Space included a generous listing of excellent books to read, research to do, and experiments to tackle!

We used The World of Space as our main astronomy spine. We decided to simply follow the format listed in the teacher’s manual, which (at least for a seventh grader) provides enough material to cover in a week, spending about thirty minutes on the astronomy lessons per day (or night, for some of the experiments). We started with reading the Lots of Science Library Book for the chapter, which introduced us to the topic and vocabulary for the week. The rest of the chapter activities can be divided up over the remaining days of the school week. I found that the best way for us to handle this was to do an experiment or activity per day. On the last two days of the week, we did either some of the recommended reading or some Internet research. In this way, The World of Space provides interesting work to do each day for science and keeps the student’s interest level high. I have to say that my favorite parts (and my son’s, as well) were the experiments, the recommended reading (as I’m always looking for great books to use in homeschool), and the well-organized curriculum itself. The authors make it very easy to follow the lesson plan and program and present a well-rounded study of astronomy for students, whether they’re younger or older.

Common Sense Press recommends that, for a complete year’s science studies, parents select one book from each of the areas of their science curricula (life, earth, and physical sciences). So Great Science Adventures: The World of Space can easily be used to complete one-third of a student’s science studies in a given year. I recommend this interesting and exciting curriculum for anyone who’s looking for ways to teach science in a memorable manner!

-Product Review by Melanie Reynolds, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December 2014

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