You guys, I have a real life MIDDLE SCHOOL kid now. We’re always looking for a good science curriculum, but I’m sort of picky. We were given a review copy of a brand new text from Novare Science & Math called Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home to try, and before we did, I did a little bit of research on the company and author.
I am going to preface this review by mentioning that this Earth Science curriculum appealed to me right away after I did a little bit of digging on it and on the author. You see, Kevin Nelstead talks about an Old Earth, rather than Young Earth. For those not familiar or perhaps those that haven’t given it much thought, the Christian and scientific communities often get up in arms about this issue.
Many Christians believe the Bible quite literally, thus using it to date our Earth off of a few scriptures. You can view an article on the Novare Science & Math website entitled Does Genesis 1 Demand Belief in a Young Earth? by Jeffrey A. Mays that clarifies the stand that this publishing company and its authors take on this BIG issue. I absolutely applaud them, not only on their stance, but for being so open and candid about it.
I have been looking everywhere for a Christian curriculum that aligns with my personal beliefs. Most Christian science texts are either firmly Young Earth or they simply avoid the subject of dating the universe and Earth entirely. I’m not satisfied with that at all, so this Earth Science curriculum already has me impressed.
I also love that the book discusses deep, intelligent issues with a middle school audience. Instead of teaching AT the student, this text allows students to be part of the conversation. For example, the book discusses with students how the universe came to be. It gives several answers that people may give, whether believers or not. The next section in this chapter (after the excerpt shown below) talks about whether Christianity and science conflict.
The author states that he hopes that each person remembers that All truth is God’s truth as their main takeaway from this entire textbook.
As you can see from the excerpt above, this is something that is discussed in the book. I love that it does not teach the student that they have to believe in one way or another. It presents them with their stand, it presents them with the other perspective, it tells them what many Christian scientists believe, but it ends by saying that all truth is God’s trush and, in the end, when we understand everything, the conflicts will go away.
For more information on their Kingdom focus in their text, check out the video below:
Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home
Whew! Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to tell you a little more about the course. This Earth Science book is a hardcover book of about 500 pages and 15 chapters. There are Biblical citations throughout the text, and there’s a reference for those in the back of the book as well.
There are 8 Experimental Investigations throughout the book, and students will need to create a lab journal for themselves to record documentation of their work. There is a whole page in the Preface for Students that tells them what to do (page xxii). This curriculum really helps students take more of their learning into their own hands, truly making it a more mature and serious science course than they probably did in elementary school.
I found the text to be best suited to a small classroom. I think it would be great in a co-op setting, because the author does state that a good way to implement this well-structured course is for each student to participate in: class discussion, group study, review discussion, enrichment activities, and learning rock names. Clearly this would be easier by doing it with other students learning the same information at the same time.
The text is colorful and to the point. It has a much more conversational tone than I was expecting, but the material presented is complex and technical as well. It’s a really good stepping stone into more difficult information for tweens and teens to learn from.
The beginning of each chapter begins with a photograph or illustration, as well as a topic for students to think about. Next, it lists objectives that students should be able to do once they’re done studying the chapter. There is a long list of vocabulary terms that will be covered in the chapter and that students should be able to describe or define by the time they’ve completed the chapter.
Each chapter is divided into 3-6 sections, and each section is divided into a few subsections. At the end of each section, there is a Learning Check for students. This consists of several questions, which we did orally at the end of the section and used as discussion questions. At the end of each chapter, there are several Exercises, which are written as questions students should write the answers to. I did a mix of half oral and half written for my student, because she has never had that much of a written response required of her, and I’m still working on getting her to write answers at a higher level since she’s just beginning 7th grade now.
The Experimental Investigations are the experiments for the book. Each one gives an overview of what the student will be doing, a basic materials list, and safety guidelines. Then, it goes over the process by which the students will investigate the materials or perform the experiment. Students would use their lab notebooks for these.
We have not completed one of the experiments yet, but I will definitely be trying them with my daughter soon. I am thankful that this curriculum only has 8 of them, but they’re all at a much higher level than our past curricula has done. We’ve never done a full-on lab notebook before, so it’ll be a learning curve for both of us!
Honestly, science is something that I’m learning alongside my children. The more I do with them, the more I’m discovering for myself. Novare also has a book called Science for Every Teacher, which is designed to help a K-8th teacher (or in my case, homeschooling parent) gain the knowledge and confidence in their scientific knowledge to really assist their students in learning. I may have to pick this up soon to help me along as well.
We were also given access to the information found on the Resource CD. The Resource CD has quizzes and semester exams, plus answer keys. It also has a week by week breakdown if you wanted to follow the lessons in their suggested order. There are experiment resources, materials week by week, and weekly review guides.
I think these materials are really helpful! The text itself could be split up fairly easily to make it work for a year-long middle school Earth Science curriculum. However, the information on the disc really breaks it down and makes it much easier. I also really found the Experiment Resources invaluable as well. Experiments are not my favorite, but this information broke it down and made it more approachable, so we’ll be able to do them without me fearing that we’re doing it incorrectly. The whole point of homeschooling, for us, is to provide a great education in a way that fits with our family and lifestyle, and I’ve found that this curriculum doesn’t disappoint.
Overall, I’m excited to find a curriculum that addresses and approaches SCIENCE the same way that my family does. Frankly, I feel like a middle school student should have access to the different viewpoints. This science curriculum is full and complete with so much information, backed by studies, research, and how things are being looked at in the faith world and the “real world”, and talking about the differences or how they could be complimentary.
This text not only teaches a student about the scientific topics being covered, but it also helps them to grow in their own faith. It teaches investigation. It teaches a student to research, to question and seek answers, and it teaches them about God’s amazing world.
I highly recommend this text to other parents struggling to find a challenging and rigorous, yet approachable, faith-based Earth Science for their middle school student. I’m so excited to have my copy, and I can’t wait to find out more about the other texts they have available.
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