Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Science

I think I've mentioned that I'm cruelly forcing the boys to do science this summer.  Actually, only one of them has complained, and he complains about everything, so I don't pay much attention ;D 

And what's up with that anyway?  I've become habituated to it and I'm not curbing it like I should... for his own good.  Wyatt absolutely gives me fits some days, and then (when offered options, like taking one or two classes, part time at the high school), proclaims vehemently that he NEVER wants to go to public school and wants to be homeschooled all the way through, full time. 

Then apply yourself, son.

But back to science... Wyatt really resisted allowing himself to show any interest in the first few chapters of his book, but now that he's getting into some biology I see him getting drawn in.  Don't tell him I noticed, yah?  And Tate and Gunnar are loving their study of birds, bats, and (moving on to) bugs. 

Well of course they are!  I haven't met a kid yet that isn't interested in animals!  And when the boys were smaller, and we were just starting homeschooling, that's what we started with.  Animals.  (And volcanoes, because we were going to Mt. St. Helens, but that's a different story ;D )  They LOVED it!  I found a simplified chart that showed how animals are grouped into phyla and classes, adapted a form from Susan Wise Bauer's Well-Trained Mind, and away we went. 

We'd choose an animal we were interested in and gather our resources.  First we'd scour our home library, then get books and often nature documentaries from the public library, (Gunnar and I recently enjoyed The Biggest Dam Movie You Ever Saw - about beavers - from Netflix, so the opportunities are nearly endless), and we'd look for an opportunity to observe the real thing, if possible.  We started with things we could capture and keep, at least for awhile... bugs, lizards, tadpoles, frogs, even a fresh-water clam!  (And, if memory serves, way too many reptiles, friends.  To clarify: 'too many' starts at one.)  Just click the tag below (creature feature) and you'll see many of our wonderful finds.  Not for the squeamish.

Each boy had an animal notebook, to save all his notes.  We started with our Animal Observation sheet.  Most of the questions can be answered just by looking at the creature and using a (visual) classification chart, but some we had to research together.  My master looks like this;


Kingdom:            (This would be Animalia ;D )
Phylum:               We mostly dealt with arthropods (crabs, insects, etc.), molluscs (have shells), and 
                              chordates (have a backbone).
Class:                   These are still big groups kids can manage, like birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, etc.
Common Name:  (Duh)
Latin Name:         Didn't always do this when they were really little, but kind of interesting when you
                              start recognizing Latin word roots.

Does it have a backbone?           Kids can usually figure this out.  They learn that most animals have
                                                        a skeleton on the inside or the outside.
Does it have fur?                         Easy :D
Does it have wings?                    Some insects' wings are hidden under wing-cases, but usually easy.
What does its skin feel like?      Furry, scaly, smooth, bumpy, rough, slippery, soft, cold, warm... 
How many feet does it have?
What do its feet look like?          Color, texture, claws, size, shape, toes, hooves, etc.
How many legs does it have?     It's good to notice that they come in pairs.
What do its legs look like?         Color, covering, joints, size, shape, etc.
What does its body look like?    Size, general shape, thickness, covering, color, etc.
What does it eat?                        Look it up, you might be surprised :D
Where does it live?                     Where is it native.  Not the zoo.
How big is it?                             They'll learning what measurements mean, or use comparison.
What do its babies look like?     A small version of the adult?  Hairless and blind?  Completely
                                                     different?  Ahhhh... metamorphosis...
Is it domesticated or wild?
Is it endangered?

* Sometimes we recorded observations of animals we captured.
* Sometimes we summarized books we'd read.
* Sometimes we made maps that showed the distribution of the animal.  (This was especially interesting when we studied the fresh-water clam, which was introduced from China and is an invasive species.  We mapped out where it started and how far it spread for various years.)
* And I had them make a picture.  If I remember right, Bauer has them do that at the beginning of her observation sheet, but I thought their pictures were better if they made their observations first.  They tended to notice and include more details.  Although, to be honest, when one of my smaller smalls (ahem, Gunnar) sometimes got frustrated with drawing I would sometimes print out a coloring sheet of the animal that he could color and I would help him label.  And sometimes we just found a picture to cut and paste.  It's hard to be the youngest.

So there ya go :D


Felicity said...

Interesting!! Sometimes I miss 'doing my own thing'.

The dB family said...

Awesome stuff! I loved homeschooling the kids in science because a simple walk could be made into a science lesson.*Sigh* I'm still missing home schooling.


Herding Grasshoppers said...

We had a lot of fun just doing our own thing, but as the boys are getting older I'm REALLY appreciating the structure of having some things planned for us. We LOVE Apologia Science :D

Choate Family said...

I may borrow your ideas when we get back to biology in a couple of years - thanks for the peek into your "mean" summer school!