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Great Science Adventures: The World of Light and Sound Review by Dawn Oaks

Dinah Zike and Susan Simpson
Common Sense Press
8786 Highway 21
Melrose, FL 32666

Our family is relatively new to the Great Science Adventures series from Common Sense Press. This study, like others in this series, combined a strong knowledge base with a visual presentation of the material and opportunities for further research. The content of the unit went from the purity of nature in the form of a rainbow and light to today’s technology of lasers and fiber optics.

The World of Light and Sound is a unit study broken into 24 lessons. The authors suggest that each lesson should take approximately one to three days to complete. At this pace, the entire unit could be completed in 5-10 weeks.

There are three key components in each lesson. The student’s first introduction to the lesson content is through the assembly and reading of the Lots of Science Library Books. These books are small books that have a cover, key terms, graphics, and content related to the lesson. When assembled they are about 2.5” x 4”. These little books were a real hit with our sons.

The second step in the lesson was the completion of the graphic organizers. These incorporate a review of the material as the students complete some writing on them, as well as visually grasp the material. In the final step, the students are presented with a series of possible research topics as well as hands on experiments/activities to further explore the main lesson theme. The extent to which these projects are pursued and developed is the real determinant of how many days each lesson takes.

This series was designed to be a complete science curriculum for students in grades K-8. The ability to mold these lessons to your students’ academic level is found in varying degrees of complexity of assignments associated with the graphic organizers as well as what you will require and the depth you wish your student to explore the research topics at the end of each lesson.

The overall content covered in the Great Science Adventures: The World of Light and Sound was thorough for the topic. It included information on:

  • What is sunlight and how does light travel?
  • Reflection and refraction
  • What is a rainbow, discussion of what color is, and then additional information on prisms
  • The ability of light to travel through objects that are transparent, translucent, and opaque.
  • Mirrors and how these are similar to the lenses in our eyes
  • Lasers and fiber optics
  • Discussion of what heat is and how it travels
  • Discussion of sound and how it travels and how it is measured
  • The means through which sound travels through the air, water, and solids
  • A study of the human ear and how we hear
  • An exploration of the different properties of sound from loudness to different pitches
  • The principles by which sound is reflected and absorbed
  • A consideration of how light and sound are similar and different

The study presented in The World of Light and Sound is one that every student can relate to just through their own use of the senses of sight and smell. It gives them a moment to pause at the science and complexity of these elements in our environment that many of us take for granted.

Formal research skills could be utilized in learning about Lord Kelvin, the function and design of a lightning bug’s abdomen, lunar and solar eclipses, holograms, and even the lives of key figures such as Helen Keller and Anton von Leeuwenhoek. For those more active learners, there are tons of suggested hands-on activities that include the use of mirrors, shadows, prisms, and different materials that affect the travel, pitch, and intensity of sound.

There is an end of the unit assessment included with The World of Light and Sound. This can be accomplished through discussion with your student or other strategies offered by the authors. There is not a formal test, but many times unit studies that have a research component like this unit will yield greater knowledge growth and retention than more traditional learning materials.

All of the pages for the graphic organizers, as well as the Lots of Science Library Books, are included in the back of this paperbound unit. These pages may be reproduced for use by children in your own family. Our greatest challenge in using this study, however, was in finding an effective manner to get copies of these pages for our sons. A consideration for future publications of this unit would be either spiral binding of the unit, perforated pages so they could be removed for copying, or for the pages that require copying be shipped in a separate shrink-wrapped package separate from the lesson plans.

A second recommendation for future publications would be a list of all materials and resources needed by lesson number. It could be highlighted that the exercises using these materials are optional but would make parent preparation time and planning easier.

Overall, we were favorably impressed with the knowledge base of this unit, its further presentation through graphic organizers, and the opportunity for the student to expand their knowledge through both hands-on activities as well as research. A great opportunity is presented for your child to also propose their own projects and research driven by their interests and curiosity.

-Product review by Dawn Oaks, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2015