Give your kids the advantage with the award winning easy-to-teach Real Science-4-Kids  

The number of children being home schooled continues to rise, according to a study cited in a January 5, 2009, article in USA Today. The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics reports that 1.5 million kids were being home schooled in 2007. This is an increase of 36% over 2003 numbers and 74% since the department began keeping track in 1999.

These numbers probably don’t surprise those of us involved in teaching our children at home. The reasons given most often continue to be concerns about the traditional school environment (safety, drugs, peer pressure) and a desire to provide religious or moral instruction.

But the 2007 survey also reports the top reasons for home schooling have expanded to include parents desiring “a nontraditional approach” that might include allowing children to learn at their own pace and a rejection of standard curricula and testing. Sixty-five percent of home school parents chose this as one of their top reasons.

The Gravitas team believes teaching science in context with kids’ real-world experiences and an interdisciplinary approach are helping parents reach a goal of truly engaging their children in learning. Teaching children how to use open inquiry and the logic of the scientific method at an early age may also give them an advantage in learning other subjects. 

The USA Today article also points out that the percentage of home-schooled children who are enrolled part time in traditional schools has declined. Part-time enrollment in the past has been used for subjects the parents do not feel qualified to teach. Perhaps this is a sign that new teaching materials and teacher’s manuals are making more parents feel comfortable tackling “tough subjects” such as chemistry, biology and physics.


The goal of improving our science classrooms was mentioned more than once by President Obama in his first press conference given February 9, 2009. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, surely this attention to better educating our children in science is welcome to all. 

The January 20 Inaugural Address included science with the statement: “We’ll restore science to its rightful place…” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/inaugural-address). 

The fact that our children are falling behind other countries in science education has been included in the official administrative agenda of the new White House, as evidenced by this section of issues to be addressed:

“ …the United States is losing its scientific dominance. Among industrialized nations, our country’s scores on international science and math tests rank in the bottom third and bottom fifth, respectively. Over the last three decades, federal funding for the physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences has declined at a time when other countries are substantially increasing their own research budgets. President Obama and Vice President Biden believe federally funded scientific research should play an important role in advancing science and technology in the classroom and in the lab.” (For full information, see:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/additional

Of course, home school parents are not waiting for new state-of-the-art classrooms and labs to be constructed. They are finding science textbooks that engage their children and make learning science fun. They are supervising their children at the kitchen table as the curious youngsters conduct their own science experiments and experience the joy of discovery. They are planting real science knowledge early in their children’s educational journey and teaching them the logic of scientific methods that will serve them in every area of study for years to come.


This is the first of a series of posts examining how Real Science-4-Kids (RS4K) and Kogs-4-Kids (K4K) texts align with the 2005 National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council. We’ll look at the standards for science content for grades 5 through 8 in each of the subsections of the nine sections of the Standards. 

National Science Education Standards; Science as Inquiry, subsection 1: IDENTIFY QUESTIONS THAT CAN BE ANSWERED THROUGH SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATIONS.

Students should develop the ability to refine and refocus broad and ill-defined questions. An important aspect of this ability consists of students’ ability to clarify questions and inquiries and direct them toward objects and phenomena that can be described, explained, or predicted by scientific investigations. Students should develop the ability to identify their questions with scientific ideas, concepts, and quantitative relationships that guide investigation.

RS4K meets this standard in the following way:

Every RS4K chapter has a corresponding laboratory experiment in which students learn to create an objective and a hypothesis, i.e., a “question” to be answered by the experiment. For example, Chapter 7 of Chemistry Level I asks students to predict how many colors are in black ink. The teacher is instructed to help the students decide on a suitable hypothesis. It must be specific enough to be tested using paper chromatography. 

The question “What colors are in black ink” is then refined to “Black ink contains only black color.” Or “Black ink contains all the colors; red, yellow, green, blue.” In this way a student has directed the question towards a scientific investigation that can be explained or described. 


Gravitas has a publishing philosophy that science should be taught in context with other disciplines and everyday life. That is demonstrated in the way the science textbooks are written and in the conception of the workbook series called Kogs-4-Kids. Currently, there are Kogs that connect chemistry to other areas of life and learning such as the Arts andTechnology.

More and more top-level research on how we learn backs up the benefits of “teaching for understanding” versus memorization. A wonderful book on the subject is How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School.* On page 16 of the book, the Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning summarizes teaching for understanding this way:

To develop competence in areas of inquiry, students must a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework and c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.

 

Learning the core disciplines, the scientific method, and using open inquiry provide exactly the sort of learning described above. Real Science-4-Kids textbooks, laboratory experiments, and Kogs workbooks do not simply tell children that “If you do this, that happens.” Facts are supplied in the textbooks, providing a deep foundation. But then children are encouraged to understand these facts in the framework provided by the Kogs and apply their curiosity in an organized way in the laboratory experiments by posing hypotheses such as, “If I warm this liquid, I predict it will affect the outcome in this way.”

The results of helping kids organize and apply knowledge are most briefly summarized in the same book on page 189:

…there is evidence that teaching for understanding can increase test scores on standardized measures…

 

Why not give our children these learning advantages along with the facts of core scientific disciplines at the earliest possible grade level?

* How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School

Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning; John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, Rodney R. Cocking, editors; with additional material from the National Research Council. National Academy Press 2000


This is the third in a series of posts examining how Real Science-4-Kids (RS4K) and Kogs-4-Kids (K4K) texts align with the 2005 National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council. We’ll look at the standards for science content for grades 5 through 8 in each of the subsections of the nine sections of the Standards. 

National Science Education Standards; Science as Inquiry, subsection 3: USE APPROPRIATE TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES TO GATHER, ANALYZE, AND INTERPRET DATA.

The use of tools and techniques, including mathematics, will be guided by the question asked and the investigations students design. The use of computers for the collection, summary, and display of evidence is part of this standard. Students should be able to access, gather, store, retrieve, and organize data, using hardware and software designed for these purposes.

Real Science-4-Kids meets this standard in the following ways:

Every RS4K Laboratory Workbook experiment includes instructions for students to record and organize the data they gather while performing their investigation. They are encouraged to capture the evidence in a myriad of ways throughout each course. In many cases, the Gravitas workbook provides graphs, tables or charts upon which the students are asked to organize and record their findings.

When performing the experiment variations provided in the Gravitas site blog, students are reminded of the importance of a thorough laboratory notebook. For some experiments, they are asked to retrieve the information they gathered in the corresponding Laboratory Workbook experiment and compare that data to what happened in their experiment variation.

Because purchasing specialized computer software for children’s science courses is not economically sound for most home school situations, Gravitas does not require its use.


This is the second in a series of posts examining how Real Science-4-Kids (RS4K) and Kogs-4-Kids (K4K) texts align with the 2005 National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council. We’ll look at the standards for science content for grades 5 through 8 in each of the subsections of the nine sections of the Standards. 

National Science Education Standards; Science as Inquiry, subsection 2: DESIGN AND CONDUCT A SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION. 

Students should develop general abilities, such as systematic observation, making accurate measurements, and identifying and controlling variables. They should also develop the ability to clarify their ideas that are influencing and guiding the inquiry, and to understand how those ideas compare with current scientific knowledge. Students can learn to formulate questions, design investigations, execute investigations, interpret data, use evidence to generate explanations, propose alternative explanations, and critique explanations and procedures.

Real Science-4-Kids meets this standard in the following ways:

Every RS4K Student Text provides students with current scientific knowledge on each topic. Each chapter topic has a corresponding experiment in the Laboratory Workbook, so students are able to conduct their own investigations and compare their observations with relevant scientific knowledge. Students learn the steps involved in various types of scientific discovery as part of the coursework. For example, the first Biology Level 1 lab experiment provides practice in understanding how to observe and classify items. Then, however, they are encouraged to make new categories of their own to re-classify. So students learn to think critically and design their own learning experience.

Also, RS4K Laboratory Workbooks explain the importance of keeping a Laboratory Notebook in which accurate observations, measurements and variables are recorded – even when observable results of an experiment do not match the expected outcome. The Teacher’s Manual provides guidance about how to help children formulate explanations for their results and how to make “valid” conclusions versus conclusions that might go beyond what was actually demonstrated and observed.