Physical Science Curriculums and Programs - Reviews
My Reviews of a Few Physical Science Curriculums and Programs
Physical Science is that branch of science which focuses on non-living things and which usually includes the study of physics, chemistry, astronomy, and sometimes geology and meteorology. In Physical Science, students usually learn about atoms and molecules, chemical reactions, Newton's Laws, states of matter, light and sound, electricity, fluid dynamics, pressure, density, simple and compound machines, energy, magnets, electromagnets, compasses, motors, mass, elements, physical and chemical reactions, mixtures, compounds, crystals, astronomy, and other things.
Above you can see the mini-house with electric lights that my homeschooled son built as part of the Exploration Education physical science curriculum we used with our homeschool co-op this past year (2010-2011). In addition to reviewing the Exploration Education physical science program, I've also provided my reviews on several other physical science programs.
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Exploration Education Physical Science Curriculum - A physical science curriculum with levels for elementary, middle grades, and early high school students!
This is my son building the mini house with electric lights that was shown near the top of this page. In the background is our laptop, with the Exploration Education physical science program on it. The program provides easy to follow step by step directions for all the models and labs.
Our homeschool co-op selected the Exploration Education physical science program for our middle school and high school level science curriculum last year. We found this to be a top-notch physical science program!
The Basics of the Exploration Education Physical Science Program
The program consists of three basic components: the text, the models, and the experiments & activities. You'll find more information about these below.
There are also 3 levels of the program.
K-3rd grade elementary level = 36 lessons, 36 experiments, and 4 models.
4th-6th grade level = 108 lessons, 108 experiments & activities, and 7 models.
7th - 10th grades level = 180 lessons, 144 activities & experiments, and 10 models.
Those 180 lessons in the advance program consists of 36 chapters, with five lessons in each. (Occasionally a test or quiz takes the place of a lesson.) The advanced level is the one that our homeschool co-op used, so the rest of my review will be based on our experience with it.
The Exploration Education Physical Science Text
The text comes on a cd-rom, which has the advantage of allowing for short videos and moving demonstrations within the text itself. Instead of just reading about something, students often get to see it in action. Illustrations are almost always a help in science books, and illustrations that can move are even better!
Instead of just looking at a still illustration of an atom, on the Exploration Education (EE) physical science program students get to actually see the electrons moving around the nucleus. Students view animations of atoms being attracted to one another, as well as repelled. They grasp the way electricity works by viewing electrons push each other along a closed circuit. They observe two atoms sharing electrons in a covalent bond. There's even a moving model of a working combustion engine! Some pages include sounds or short movies as well. For example, there's a short video from NASA about the Wright Brothers.
Unlike a textbook, the cd-rom is interactive. Students can click on things on the computer screen in order to get something on the screen to happen. Pluck the guitar string, and you'll not only see the vibrations, but hear them as well.
In addition, after every page or two, the computer will check the student's comprehension of the material just covered. For most lessons, students aren't able to move on until they understand what they've just read. Since new information often builds on previous information, this method works well to ensure that students don't move on too quickly. If a student misses one of the check point questions, all he needs to do is click back a page, find the info he needs, then answer the question again. But don't worry, Moms and Dads! There's a teacher's manual with all the answers in it, in case your student gets stuck!
In this photo, another boy in our homeschool co-op is preparing
to launch his rocket. All the youth made their rockets together at our co-op,
and then went outside to have fun launching them! A chemical reaction
between water and alka selzer makes the rocket take off.
The Hands-On Components: Models, Experiments, and Activities
Exploration Education Physical Science program consists of the making of quite a few working models of things. In the advanced program, students build working models (out of wood, metal, plastic, and other materials) of a steamboat (that uses a candle to operate), a large glider, a mini house with electric lights that work, a circuit, a motor, a rocket, a balance scale, an electric car, a one string guitar with frets, and a solar fan.
Some of the models take several days to make, such as the glider. Others can be made in 30 minutes or less, such as the solar fan. All the instructions for making the models are located on the cd-rom, which means the student can view step by step illustrations, and even watch a moving demonstration of tricky steps. After a model is made (the making of which provides many learning experiences in itself!), the models are used for experiments and activities throughout the remainder of the curriculum.
A glider my son built
Although you can't tell it from the photo, this glider has a wingspan
of just under 3 ft. The wooden wings are covered in a plastic film
that was shrunk onto them by the use of the heat from a hairdryer.
The glider was used for various experiments regarding lift.
Could science be any more fun than this?! Even as a parent and teacher, I had a ball with this curriculum! There were a few concepts that were a little difficult for the youth to understand, but overall I found this curriculum to be fabulous! The price is reasonable, in my opinion. It's not as inexpensive as some of the other physical science manuals on this page, but considering that ALL the materials are provided for you (except a few common household items, such as pot lids), it's worth the little bit extra! It even came with candles for the steamboat, and alka seltzer tablets for the rocket! It was so wonderful not to have to run out to the store in search of this or that this year! And we all really enjoyed making and experimenting with all the various models!
At the end of the year, I wrote to the company practically begging them for a high school level biology curriculum for next year. Alas, there isn't one yet. Perhaps in the future!
How We Did This Program In Our Homeschool Co-op
The members of our co-op meet once a week. For the physical science program, we usually began each new chapter on the day of our co-op. We'd read the text on a laptop computer together, discuss the answers to the questions together, and then do the experiments and other activities together. If we had time, we did more than one lesson that day, which meant less homework for the remainder of the week. On the remaining 4 days of the week, students were responsible for reading the text and doing the remainder of the experiments and activities (or building of models) at home.
For More Information
If you'd like to find out more about the Exploration Education Physical Science program, or if you're interested in ordering it, please visit:
Exploration Education Physical Science
A few examples of physical science experiments and activities in this book include making balloon racers, designing their own mousetrap cars, making catapults that shoot marshmallows, making ice cream, and creating yummy mixtures of food while learning about mixtures!
Hands-On Physical Science - For Grades 4 to 8
Hands On Physical Science is organized around units. Each unit contains a little info about the topic, a list of vocabulary words, and a series of hands-on lessons. When learning about Newton's Law of motion, for example, students engage in several activities (such as catching a coin that's resting on their elbows) and then determine which of Newton's laws applied in each scenario. The units include force and motion, energy and heat, states of matter and the fluid laws, simple machines, electricity, magnetism, waves, light and sound, nuclear energy, atomic structure, physical and chemical reactions, and acids, bases and solutions.
101 Hands-On Science Experiments - Grades 4 to 7
The activities in 101 Hands On Science Experiments are organized into units, such as Motion and Force, Hot and Cold Stuff, The Pressure Is On, Kitchen Science, Wild and Crazy Reactions, and others. Most of the activities take 15 minutes or less to complete, although a few require additional time. (There are quite a few that take only about 5 minutes!) In addition to listing the time and materials required, the author has also assigned a difficulty number to each one. Another feature I enjoyed about this one is the simple explanation given after the experiment. The directions are very clearly laid out.
Example: In one activity, students try to suck baby food up with eyedroppers, only to find out that the baby food is too thick. After mixing some of their own saliva in with the baby food, and giving the whole mixture a 24 hour period in the fridge, they try once again to suck it up with eyedroppers.
Note: This is not just a physical science program, but includes the study of some living things as well. In fact, "Creepy Crawlers" is one of the units in the book.
The Basic, Not Boring, Physical Science - For Middle Grades Students
The Basic, Not Boring, Physical Science: Inventive Exercises to Sharpen Skills and Raise Achievement is a group of nicely illustrated worksheets for physical science students. In my opinion, it's not a full curriculum by itself, but could be very useful when combined with other programs.
Examples: One of the worksheets asks students to identify atoms (from illustrations) by counting their protons or electrons. A periodic chart is provided for that purpose. (The number of protons or electrons of an atom is equal to the atomic number, which appears on the periodic chart.). Another worksheet asks the students to write the formulas for various compounds, such as H20 and C02 (and harder ones too).
Hands On Physics Activities - For High School Students
Our homeschool co-op is strongly considering using this as one of our physics books for next year's physics class! It's a great book, full of wonderful labs!
This physics program, designed for students in grades 8 through 12, covers many of the same things as are covered in the physical science programs I've been reviewing. For example, Hands On Physics Activities covers measurement, motion, force, pressure, energy and momentum, waves, light, & electricity and magnetism. Those are all things we covered last year in the Exploration Education physical science program. By adding additional material in chemistry and astronomy, Hands On Physics Activities could serve as a physical science program, and probably be continued another year as at least part of a physics program. The activities look interesting. The book also contains some information for teachers, including analogies and daily life examples for sharing with the students.
More Physical Science Resources - Here are some free science project ideas!
- Physical Science Projects
This site has numerous physical science projects you can do. Free instructions are provided!
- Physical Science Project Ideas
This site also has quite a few physical science project ideas. The recommended age level for completing the project, difficulty level, cost of purchasing the materials, time required to complete the project, free instructions, and more are included f
Are you a physical science teacher or a student in a physical science class?
Do you like physical science?
There's a guestbook near the bottom of this page for your questions and comments!
I'd love to hear from you!!
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