Monday, April 6, 2009

Chemistry - Part I

Hello friends,

Well today I was thinking about writing about vocabulary helps, but I think I may wait and hold off on that for one of my product reviews. Today I'm going to write about Chemistry. I teach a Science coop class to 12 students aged 9 -12. These are an awesome group of children and we have had fun all year.

Science can be a difficult subject to teach, and it's so important to instill that love of discovery and exploration while they are still young. It's important to try to do this before they get it into their minds that Science is hard, too hard for them to learn. :-( My take on this is...I would probably have felt the same way if I hadn't come across two incredible science teachers while I was in high school. My Chemistry teacher would come up with the COOLEST experiments, and my Physics teacher..well what can I say...he used to let us fly rockets down the hallways to prove theories (of course the other teachers weren't always thrilled :-) ). Anyway... I pray that I have a small fraction of influence on these lovely kids :-)

We spent the first half of the year studying Apologia Elementary Science- Swimming Creatures (Zoology 2). This was really a great course and the children really enjoyed it. We combined the reading and notebooking with the great experiments and also some videos from Discovery School. We really enjoyed it. The only thing I would say about this series is I think you really get the maximum benefit of this curriculum when you take your time to expand on all the great lessons presented (next time we will take a full year). For example, when we were studying the Cephlapods, we went to our local Aquarium and did a squid dissection class and sea creature scavenger hunt through the Aquarium. We also played Marine Zoology Jeopardy (smile). I would load the file to share with you if I could figure it out, but if any of you would like to take a look, let me know (For those of you who follow the Yahoo group, I know someone on there has also developed a jeopardy game, I haven't seen it, but I'm sure it's great. This is one for the entire book).

ok I digress... this is supposed to be an entry about Chemistry :-)

Anyway, the children really wanted to do Chemistry the second half of the year and unfortunately, Apologia currently only publishes Chemistry for High School students. I really wanted a book that would teach the complex concepts of Chemistry to young children in a non-intimidating manner and looked at a lot of different curricula at our fairs. The one that pleased me the most was surprisingly a secular book (strictly teaches concepts, no evolution or anything like that in the chemistry book-I haven't used their biology or physics, so I don't know).

The book we are using for Chemistry is called Real Science 4 kids - Chemistry. It's really a great book, and we are having a lot of fun with it. It is published by Gravitas Publishing The things I really like about the book's thin, short and sweet :-), very colorful, and it is written in a way that it is easily understood by my youngest students. This course is designed to be taught in as few as 10 weeks (there are 10 chapters). the chapters are only about 3-4 pages each, and it is very easy to incorporate the notebooking concept as well as hands on learning. The down side of this curriculum is that it is pricey, worth the buy, but you may want to look for used copies or wait for the curriculum fairs.

I have each student keep a binder and they all have pretty much the same assignments with the exception of the writing and research requirements. Here is a list of what they are required to do for the week:

Notebook Page Summary
Weekly Research (find an article that involves chemistry and it's uses today)
Connects to Language
Learn Periodic Table Song

We review the assigned chapter in class, have oral reports on what they found during their research , then we do a class activity and our experiment.

So now we are on our 3rd week of class, and so far we have covered atoms, molecules and this week is chemical reactions (yeah!). We have grown crystals, made an edible atom, and marshmallow molecules and this week we will be doing the infamous volcano reactions! You know the ones I'm talking about...the diet coke and Menthos, or the vinegar and baking soda, but we will put a little spin on it by comparing the various reactions and see which one causes the biggest eruption (I love to, as the kids say, "blow" things up (in a non life-threatening way of course)! Probably all those years I spent in the military :-)

Anyway, if we get a chance we will also launch my darling son's hydrogen rocket he's been itching to try out. Well, that's all for now, in the Chemistry part II, I will post specifics about each experiment that we've done to give you some ideas.


  1. Can you expand (or explain, lol) a little bit on how to create the volcanoes? We'll be studying volcanoes for science in a couple of weeks, and I'd like a hands-on activity for them to do. Any good sites or anything you can suggest?

  2. I will post a few different types of volcano experiments you can do, tomorrow after we have our class. Hopefully I'll have some great pictures to put up also.

  3. Thank you Tony! I am actually in the process of writing a book, so I haven't been blogging lately. I plan to post soon, so stay tuned!