Earth Science – A Preview
by Donna Simmons
The following are a few excerpts from the Teacher’s Guide to the earth science component of our Christopherus Science Course for Students 12 – 14. Earth Science will be available for purchase in the Fall, and consists of a Student Workbook (see article from last newsletter for an excerpt from that) and a Teacher’s Guide. The latter explains why we have created earth science materials and not the usual geology course; how it can be used for students from sixth through ninth grade; how it fits in the sequence of components of the Science Course; help with parent preparation including discussion of conventional and Goethean/Waldorf approaches to science; ideas and activities; how to help your child get the most out of the Student Workbook; teaching advice and much more.
The Christopherus workbooks are not conventional ‘fill-in-the-blanks and use vocabulary to do crosswords’ kinds of workbooks. These are more hybrid main lesson books/workbooks. The creative element is absolutely there and to the fore—and this is key. And, they are also more readers or text than workbooks, addressed directly to the student. This helps the parent-teacher by sharing the load of presenting the material. It’s not that you don’t still have preparation to do, it’s just that you don’t have to do everything. We are sure that most homeschoolers will appreciate this enormously!
So…how to proceed:
- Investigate your locale as this is the starting point for your child’s studies. What are the local geological features? Is there a river, beach, lake or other large body of water to visit? Don’t forget reservoirs, dams, quarries and examples of erosion on buildings. Special forests, swamps, wetlands, nature reserves could also be a part of your studies.
- Orientate yourself to the included books by other authors.
- Read through the Student Workbook yourself whilst making notes about things you might want your student to do when he gets to that section as well as subjects you feel you need to research further.
- Read the following section in this Teacher’s Guide for explanations, elaborations and so on for each section of the Workbook.
- Decide, in accordance with your earth science plan for the year, how far you want your child to read at any given time (more on this under Teaching Advice).
- Think through when you will read to your child, when she will read to you and when she will read to herself. Reading aloud helps encourage discussion and your child reading to you is part of her language arts studies, facilitating ease with reading when done properly (she must not rush, needs to remember to breath, and might need to be helped over difficult words). The Workbook is not a replacement for student-teacher interaction. Its purpose is to facilitate this.
When you give your child her Workbook, impress upon her that now that she is in sixth (or seventh or so on) grade, that the work she does now will be very important in years to come. She is, in essence, creating a textbook for herself which she should be able to consult as her studies progress. Best handwriting (which needs to be clear, though beautiful is not to be sniffed at) and cleanly laid-out pages are important. There’s not much point in making a textbook one can neither read nor understand.
Making a Weather Plan
As mentioned earlier, the first thing that your child will be asked to do when she opens Chapter Four of her Student Workbook is to talk to you about making a Weather Plan. Ideally, this will be a plan for the year and will lay out what observations she will be expected to do and how often. The Plan should also clearly explain what she is expected to do with any data she records and how she should go about making her observations.
Your child will be asked to put some of this into her Student Workbook on the pages especially set apart for this. But it could also be that weather data and observation becomes such an interest that it exceeds what can be recorded in the Student Workbook. If that is the case, another notebook or pages inserted into the Workbook will be required.
Remember that what weather apparatus you and your child make or that you buy largely determines the scope of her Weather Plan.
Your child will be asked to write a number of reports during the course of this study to include in his Workbook. These should always be done in stages (however, eighth and ninth graders should be able to do most of this for themselves. You should still work on the correcting phase and with an older student, also challenge her to elaborate on certain points; to make things more consequential or clear; to cut what is extraneous).
- Your child talks through with you what he will write.
- He makes notes of what he wants to be sure to include in his report (don’t do the ‘opening paragraph, three paragraphs followed by a conclusion’ form. This is sure to kill fluid and sparkling writing—tidying up the form of essays and reports will come in later years).
- He writes his report on a piece of paper and you go over it with him correcting it (go lightly!)
- Using best handwriting, he copies this into his Workbook and illustrates it. A decorative border will make the whole book aesthetically pleasing.
This last point is quite important: one of the reasons we make main lesson books is to cultivate an appreciation of the aesthetic. By using the somewhat set form of the Workbook, your child has to think into decorating, laying-out, creating and beautifying his book in a different way than with a blank main lesson book. Both require planning, foresight, a sense for balance and harmony and the ability to work within a set space (the page or pages given). Your child will also create the usual kind of main lesson books this year and by having this opportunity to do something quite different, he will come to the creation of his own main lesson book with fresh ideas and eyes.
Chapter Four: Geology
- Make sure your child has a good rock collection before he gets to this section of his Workbook. Look through the text of his Workbook to see what specimens should be included and decide whether to buy the specimens individually or to get a rock collection kit. The downside of the latter is that the specimens can be pretty small but the upside is that it will come with a guide to the specimens which might be useful. But…if you put the collection together yourself (or, ideally, with your child) then you can get really good specimens and a decent magnifying glass with which to examine them. You will need hydrochloric acid if you do some of the tests—the kits usually come with acid so diluted it is useless (and don’t listen to anyone who suggests that vinegar is a good substitute). It is worth getting the real thing as the fizz when it hits something alkaline like limestone is very satisfying! You will also need hydrochloric acid anyway when you get to chemistry and that is when your child will learn all about acids and bases so there is no need to go into that much now. Indeed, reviewing such work will be an important part of deepening your child’s science studies.
- If you don’t get a kit, then you need information about how to test for the identity of your specimens. Have a look in the store at geology.com (where you can get the kit if you decide to do that) and see if they have a good guide you can use.
- It would be best if the rock collection had at least one good example of a kind of rock which has become a metamorphic rock. Shale to slate is very good as is granite to gneiss. However, since what is most interesting about gneiss is its bands of colored material, you need a good-sized specimen to be able to see this.
Be aware that in Chemistry I we will get to the carbon (and water and nitrogen) cycles (as well as acids and bases) so this year’s task is simply to introduce them.