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

To encourage a love of learning and build a student’s depth of understanding, look for educational materials that bridge subject matter across all disciplines, teach critical thinking skills, and encourage a mindset of discovery.

The “system of discovery” learned in a good science class will teach students how to think through facts or problems and provide a transfer process for learning:  When you understand that “like dissolves like” from a chemistry lesson and apply that to choosing a solvent to remove chewing gum from fabric, you have attained added depth of understanding.

In a book called “Understanding by Design,” Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe make several related points:

 “Understanding is a family of related abilities…including being able to explain through supported data, facts, and phenomena…being able to interpret (using scientific, historical, or philosophical viewpoints)…being able to apply what they have learned in diverse contexts, and having perspective by hearing different viewpoints through a critical lens.”

 

A framework of “diverse contexts” and “having perspective by hearing different viewpoints” can be achieved, for example, when students learn about how and why a scientific discovery was made at particular time. What were the connections for a specific discovery to the development of the arts or technology at that time? How does each society’s history of who was in power change what knowledge was acceptable or pursued?

A good example from history might be the rapid development of atomic knowledge during World War II. Because the U.S. and other governments saw the potential for a powerful weapon, the knowledge base of nuclear physics increased at a faster rate than it logically would have otherwise. This type linking of information from world affairs and science provides a deeper understanding of how and why. The bonus for students is that this knowledge, presented not for rote memorization but for context, can be quite interesting and fun.


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

National Science Education Standards; Physical Science 1:

PROPERTIES AND CHANGES OF PROPERTIES IN MATTER

A.  A substance has characteristic properties, such as density, a boiling point, and solubility, all of which are independent of the amount of the sample. A mixture of substances often can be separated into the original substances using one or more of the characteristic properties. 

B.  Substances react chemically in characteristic ways with other substances to form new substances (compounds) with different characteristic properties. In chemical reactions, the total mass is conserved. Substances often are placed in categories or groups if they react in similar ways; “metals” is an example of such a group.

C.  Chemical elements do not break down during normal laboratory reactions involving such treatments as heating, exposure to electric current, or reaction with acids. There are more than 100 known elements that combine in a multitude of ways to produce compounds, which account for the living and nonliving substances that we encounter.

 

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

The National Standards for “physical science” includes the subjects of chemistry and physics (“life science” or biology is addressed separately). Because each level of the RS4K curricula covers subjects in the same order (with more depth added for higher levels), the following alignments are generally true for Pre-Level I and Level II as well as Level I. However, specific examples are taken from Level I texts and workbooks since that age range most closely matches that of the National Standards presented here. Kogs workbooks match the subject matter of each chapter but expand that subject in the context of the book’s category (philosophy, critical thinking, history, etc.). Because information is built upon with each chapter, many types of knowledge in the standards show up in virtually all chapters. However, the key chapters for each section are shown below.

A.    The Student Textbook for chemistry and the corresponding experiments in the Laboratory Workbook have numerous chapters specifically addressing the knowledge listed in section A above. They include: chapter 1 (Matter), chapter 2 (Molecules), chapter 4 (Acids, Bases and pH), chapter 5 (Acid-Base Neutralization – titrations), chapter 6 (Mixtures), chapter 7 (Separating Mixtures).

B.    The chemistry books address the knowledge listed in section B above with chapters including: chapter 3 (Chemical Reactions).

C.    The chemistry books address the knowledge listed in section C above with continued identification and explanation of elements in the periodic table throughout all of the chapters. How elements behave in varied situations is a common thread throughout. Some specific examples of how elements become compounds are covered in more depth in chapters such as: chapter 8 (Energy Molecules), chapter 9 (Polymers), and chapter 10 (Biological Polymers: DNA and Proteins).


Both art and science are creative endeavors. During the Renaissance the artists and the scientists were often the same people. Michelangelo was both a great sculptor and the architect for St. Peters Cathedral. Leonardo da Vinci both painted the Mona Lisa and explored anatomy and engineering.

To compete in the global marketplace of ideas we need more da Vincis. We need people who can pull together vast amounts of “learning” and use that learning to create solutions to new problems we have yet to encounter. We need “forward thinkers” – thinkers who can see past the limited boxes that often confine discovery.

Gravitas learning materials provide a process of learning that will enable students to understand, retain, and transfer knowledge to new contexts. Real Science-4-Kids and Kogs-4-Kids™ (RS4K-KOGS) promote a “systems thinking” approach to learning. Their structure literally creates new neuronal pathways in the brain that facilitate all future learning.

In the book “The Mindful Brain,” Daniel Siegel explains the actual brain physiology involved:

“Experience for the nervous system involves the activation of neural firing in response to a stimulus. When neurons become active, their connections to each other grow and supportive cells and vasculature proliferate. This is how experience shapes neural structure…Neurons fire when we have a new experience. With neural firing the potential is created to alter synapses by growing new ones, strengthening existing ones, or even stimulating the growth of new neurons that create new synaptic linkages. Synaptogenesis and neurogenesis are the ways in which the brain grows new connections. Neuroplasticity is the term used when connections change in response to experience….Experience can create structural changes in the brain. Often these changes take place at the finely tuned microarchitectural level; for example, when we make new associations within memory.”

 

Note particularly the last sentence of the quote above: “these changes take place…when we make new associations within memory.” By networking ideas together, a student is better able to see connections between facts, concepts, and ideas. With a network of ideas at the student’s disposal, the student’s brain can readily connect new facts, new concepts, and new ideas to existing facts, concepts, and ideas. Thinking like Leonardo da Vinci becomes routine and ordinary instead of rare and extraordinary.


This is the eighth 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 8: USE MATHEMATICS IN ALL ASPECTS OF SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY.

Mathematics is essential to asking and answering questions about the natural world. Mathematics can be used to ask questions; to gather, organize, and present data; and to structure convincing explanations.

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

Beginning with the most elemental information and experiments in Pre-Level I Chemistry’s Student Text and Laboratory Workbook, Real Science-4-Kids illustrates the use of mathematics in science as a matter of course. Students in grades K-3 learn that atoms make up everything in our physical world, and cheerful drawings show atoms “hooking to” other atoms in certain numbers: oxygen can hook to only two other atoms; nitrogen to no more than three; and carbon no more than four. So the science drawings and text use counting and illustrate counting and addition in teaching knowledge about chemistry.

The use of mathematics builds as appropriate within each learning level. Students not only reinforce their math knowledge as they absorb the new science knowledge, they also solve problems in science using math. For example, the Physics Level I experiment for chapter 8 walks students through building an electromagnet. They must gather and record information on how varying the current or the number of loops in their coil changes the strength of the magnet. They make conclusions based on the mathematical information they observe and record (in this experiment, they make a simple list but then enter the information on a graph to visually see the mathematical results. For example, they observe and record what happens when the number of loops in the coil is doubled (number of loops x 2 = new, proportional result).

These are only two simple examples, but almost every chapter and experiment in the RS4K curricula employ the use of math seamlessly with the science lesson being taught.


 

Previous postings have discussed the importance of students gaining “critical thinking” skills they can apply to every area of study and life management. Let’s look at some of the specific ways Gravitas Publications’ materials are crafted to help students take full advantage of the inherent analysis and problem-solving methodology provided by the study of science. 

Real Science-4-Kids and Kogs-4-Kids, especially in the lab experiments and assigned activities, help students develop their own ability to see and use parallels, similarities, differences, and time lines. Students develop skills in sorting vast amounts of information, and this helps tremendously in being able to retrieve and use the information.

One of the most popular sections of many of Gravitas’ conference presentations demonstrates the value of putting things in categories. The audience – mostly home-school parents – is shown a series of images with an identifying label on each. After viewing the images, they are asked to write down all of them they can remember. The average number of items recalled is never large. Then, those same images are grouped into four named categories, and this list is shown to the audience. At that point, they are asked to recall the categories and THEN list the items that were in each category. As audience members write down the four simple categories, they begin to recall more and more items they can list within each one. The total number of images remembered soars. 

This is a tangible lesson – delivered in about 15 minutes – showing the value of learning to “think in categories” to accurately retrieve information. 

A specific example within RS4K teaching materials is the first biology lesson. It centers on correctly classifying things into categories. This skill is especially important in biology, as all living things are put into established “kingdoms.” (The formal name for the process of classifying living things is taxonomy.) Because all creatures in each kingdom share certain characteristics, their similarities make it easier to study them and remember important information. The corresponding lab experiments make a fun game of sorting and re-sorting dozens of objects, but in doing so students learn they must be able to explain what the similarities are in their classification systems.

Students learn the biology kingdoms, but they also develop their abilities to discern, classify, remember and explain. And all of these abilities contribute to the development of better critical thinking skills.


In previous postings, there has been much discussion of how important it is for students to develop certain thinking and learning processes, especially in these times of “exponential growth” of information. No individual can keep up with every new bit of information even on a very narrow subject, as that information may be changing weekly or daily. 

Making connections between disciplines, critical thinking skills, and transference of knowledge are vital for being able to access and incorporate new information. Here, and in a few other postings to come, let’s examine in more detail some of the basic ways that curricula such as that from Gravitas Publications provide the much needed skills and information.

First, it should be recognized that there are four core disciplines – chemistry, biology, physics, and earth/space – that provide the foundational framework for every scientific topic. All of science is a combination of any two or more core subjects, and these four areas of scientific study can be broken down even further. Chemistry and physics are the categories of knowledge upon which biology and earth/space knowledge are built. 

For example, photosynthesis is a process many plants utilize in order to survive, and that process is taught in biology. But photosynthesis is, at its core, a chemical process that happens to take place within a living thing. Likewise, students might study geckos in biology but would be using the laws of physics to understand how geckos can walk on walls. Understanding the process of creating nuclear power combines knowledge from both physics and chemistry.

Too often, elementary and middle school children have been presented with scientific subjects sealed in individual “silos” of facts to be memorized and accepted. 

In Real Science-4-Kids materials, connections are made to other disciplines where appropriate. Using photosynthesis again as an example, the process is explained in chapter 3 of Biology Level I. The explanation includes the chemical formula for photosynthesis. (It is: carbon dioxide (CO2) + water (H2O)+ light = sugar + oxygen (O2) – just in case you are curious.)

Thus students are learning biology, AND they are seeing chemistry applied in a new context  – one that is related to their “real” world (such as the petunias that may be outside their front door). Plus, what they learned about formulas while studying chemistry is now repeated, which further enhances their ability to retain the knowledge.

Gravitas’ Kogs-4-Kids provides the advantages of using knowledge in context and repeating knowledge in new contexts on a much wider scale. The series of six workbooks available for the Chemistry Level I Student Text connect chemistry knowledge with history, arts, philosophy, language, technology, and critical thinking.