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Great Science Adventures: The World of Tools and Technology 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. Because of the everyday applicability of this unit, we were thrilled to find hands-on learning experiences in almost every lesson.

The World of Tools and Technology 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 requirements and depth you wish for 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 Tools and Technology was thorough for the topic. It included presentation of material on:

  • The questions of what constitutes work, friction, and the types of friction. The students also explore what defines a tool.
  • Inclined planes, wedges, and screws as well as how they are used
  • Exploration of levers and how they are divided into Class One, Class Two, and Class Three
  • Wheels and axles and how they are used
  • The different types of pulleys including fixed, moveable, and compound
  • The six simple tools, gears, cams and cranks, and springs
  • Finally, the students explore how tools are powered

During the investigative loop (research) section, my boys were elated to find so many hands-on learning opportunities. They were excited to make a hovercraft, learn how inclined planes were more than likely used to a large degree in making the Egyptian pyramids, and interview a car mechanic on the use of cams, cranks, gears, and other parts that make vehicles work.

There is an end of the unit assessment included with The World of Tools and Technology. 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.

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 further 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