Thursday, July 29, 2010

Our Year in Chemistry

I never studied Chemistry in school so when my girls said they wanted to do study Chemistry and do lots of experiments, I jumped at the chance. I did my research and looked for the most appealing books and curriculum which would give us lots of hands-on opportunities and I have to say we have had a really good time with Science this year.

We started off using
 Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry pre Level 1

Real Science-4-Kids Chemistry Level 1 Student Text
Real Science-4-Kids Chemistry Level 1 Student Text

What I like about RS4K in general, is that it doesn't skimp on the real science. It uses the proper scientific terms from the start and it trains kids in the scientific method and it is easy and fun to understand and implement. The great thing is that they have set up their website so that you can check out their books in full online. This way you can gauge if it will work for you before you purchase. They also have an excellent workbook set called
 KOGS 4 Kids which allow kids to make connections between the scientific discipline they are studying (e.g Chemistry, Biology, Physics) and other disciplines like Philosophy, Language, Technology, History and Art. ( I haven't used these myself but have been SO tempted to do so). 

Pre Level 1 is aimed at K-3 and it was a little too simple for my older child and I felt I had to supplement with other books.  However, I thought the basics were covered well. It  has ten chapters and we got a good foundation in the study of Atoms and Molecules, Acids and Bases and chemical reactions. The only downside would be that I felt it was too brief and needed supplementing.

Some of the fun hands-on activities we did included building molecule models with marshmallows (big hit!); they were first allowed to build the models without any rules and then they had to build them according to specific rules. This was a cool way to introduce them to the idea of order governing the Universe right down to the tiniest atoms. 

What molecules might look like without rules

We also enjoyed observing chemical reactions using basic kitchen foods. We then created our own acid-base indicator from red cabbage and proceeded to test the properties of a variety of liquids. Kitchen science is so fun for kids (and mums)!

We supplemented our lessons by watching these episodes from Bill Nye the Science Guy which we all enjoyed immensely!

Bill Nye the Science Guy on Atoms and Molecules

What RS4K (Chemistry Pre-Level 1) doesn't have is a study on the Elements, and I felt that was an important omission. So, in searching out more material to help us -  I discovered R.E.A.L Science by Pandia Press

We really enjoyed what this added to our studies. It is complete one year curriculum that is simple but very thorough and enjoyable. The lesson starts with a notebook page that presents the information directly to the kids and it is then followed by one or two hands-on activities or experiments. The beginning of each unit will have a poem or rhyme of some sort that helps the kids remember the facts and the unit ends with some fun review in the form of a crossword puzzle. 

The experiments were easy to put together and did a good job illustrating the point. Again, each experiment requires the children go through the process of making a hypothesis, predicting a result, testing and observing what happens and drawing a conclusion. 

We were taken through the study of the Periodic Table in a gentle and interesting way. The girls enjoyed learning about the structure of an atom and built up different elements using marshmallows which you can see in the top photo. We then focused on studying and experimenting with the first 18 elements on the Periodic Table and the girls assembled an element book over a few weeks.

A free sample of their curriculum is available to download from here

Below are some of our favourite resources that I found to help round out our studies on the Periodic Table and the Elements.

These are some fun videos about the Elements which we enjoyed.

Another wonderful site for learning about the Elements is the Periodic Table of Videos produced by Nottingham University that allows you to see the elements react - of course, the explosive elements were the most fun! They are all introduced by a professor with crazy hair a la Einstein which just adds to a surreal sense of fun.

These have to be my picks for best books on the subject!

This is a gorgeous full colour exploration of each element and an engaging historical overview. My kids really enjoyed reading this. Five stars! 

The Japanese style graphics and comic tone make this a fun look into the qualities of each element. A quirky and engaging introductory reference book.

The Mystery of the Periodic Table (Living History Library)

The Mystery of the Periodic Table (Living History Library)
This  book is on my wish-list. It looks like an excellent living book and it seems to have  a pretty long list of positive reviews.

                                                           What's Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew?
                                               What's Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew?

This is an helpful and entertaining read to introduce the idea of atoms and molecules especially for younger kids.

Here are a bunch of links to other helpful resources for your Chemistry adventure:

General Sites:

Chemistry and You - excellent interactive site showing how chemistry is part of our everyday life.

What's that stuff - explains the chemistry behind stuff we used every day

Reeko's Mad Scientist Lab - tons of free experiments you can do at home 

Acids and Bases

Alien Juice Bar - great game for learning about acids and bases.

The PH factor  - a virtual chemistry lab with information and lesson plans about the PH scale.

The Periodic Table:

Periodic Table of Comic Books - for comic book fans! Click on an element and see a list of pages from various comic books featuring that elements

Chemical Reactions:

Chemistry Comes Alive videos showing fascinating chemical reactions


Kids Macrogalleria - learning about Polymers 

No study will be complete (in my opinion) without watching this fabulous 3 part documentary from the BBC: Chemistry-A Volatile History. I've posted the first episode in its entirety here. My children HIGHLY recommend it! Enjoy. You can watch the remaining two episodes here


MamaGames said...

What a great wrap-up and review post! We're delving into archaeology and geology this year but will probably do a more formal study of chemistry next year - I've bookmarked your post to help me out!

JenPB said...

Wow...this is a GREAT review and resource for so many of us as we continue our adventures into science. Thanks for taking the time to post all of this here! I've bookmarked this entry for future reference. (Still haven't brought myself to plan our year since we have a delayed start to the formal stuff this year.) Best wishes for a fabulous "new school year."

Klarissa said...

Hi I am very interested for what you guys did for the Element Book. It looks so colorful and creativty. Love it.


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