Science is a tough subject for me to teach, because I always want to incorporate all of my kids. This makes it hard to use most curriculum, which are usually age or grade specific. When I found out we would be reviewing a new book, I was ready to dig in. Funtastic Unit Studies‘ book Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers (by Susan Kilbride) is a way to use unit studies to incorporate kids from 4-13 into hand-on science activities.
Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers
This softcover book has 20 chapters. Each chapter represents a different unit. The first 10 chapters are geared more toward ages 4-7, and the last 10 chapters are geared more toward ages 8-13. Each unit should take roughly 2 weeks to complete.
Each chapter (or unit) begins with a materials list for all of the activities listed in that chapter.
Then, each chapter is broken up into several parts. For example, the Fun with Magnets chapter is divided into: Introduction, Attraction, The Power of Magnets, Push and Pull, Magnetic Fields, and Induced Magnetism.
Each part has at least one hands-on activity for students to participate in. Some have several, like 3 or more, to really get kids into the concept and to make sure it has been thoroughly demonstrated.
If you’d like to see some snippets from the book, check out the Funtastic Unit Studies page to see PDF samplers of the Plant unit (ages 4-7) and the Molecules unit (ages 8-13).
How to Use the Book
If you have kids that need to be able to SEE or TOUCH something to really understand, this book will be a winner for you. There are so many easy and interesting experiments to do. From taste testing to learn about taste buds in the Our Senses unit, to filling plastic bags with shortening to make mittens demonstrating how blubber insulates mammals in the Animals unit, to setting up a treasure hunt using the sun as a guide to learn about bees in the Insects unit, students will get to try things they’ve never thought about before!
Combining students of various ages is easy by simply giving your kids age-appropriate reading materials relating to the unit’s subject matter so that they better understand what they are doing in the experiments. The last 10 chapters of the book even include brief tests to see if your students have retained the information needed to show mastery of the unit, which is great for older students. That is why I specifically feel this could even work with middle school students. They love DOING fun experiments and activities, too!
This will not act as a standalone textbook for your science lessons. While the experiments and supporting activities are excellent, I would recommend grabbing some library books for your students that closely relate to the subjects. This is a great way for them to learn the meat of the subject and also see it in action through the hands-on activities.
While there are several activities listed in each chapter, it is totally up to you as to how many you will complete with your students. Most involve simple household supplies, so there are not a lot of things to have to gather to quickly decide to do the experiments. In fact, with many of them, you could even improvise with alternate materials if you don’t have something. This makes the curriculum convenient and much easier on parents. I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to USE something that is simple!
How We Used Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers
We chose to begin by doing Chapter 8, Health. It is one listed as ages 4-7, but I thought it would work out well since I’m constantly hounding them about taking good care of themselves. I’m glad we did this one together, because I feel like they are more conscious of these things now.
By doing this level first, they were able to get a good grasp on how the unit studies work and they gained a lot of confidence because some of the material was review.
The different parts of this chapter included: Introduction, Teeth, Healthy Eating, Exercise, Germs, and Things to Avoid.
We got a few easy picture books for all of my kids to read together, but I had my older children reading higher level books to help them to dive deeper into the research about their unit study. There are a lot of great nonfiction picture books related to these health issues, so we even had a few in our personal library that I was able to pull out.
We read the picture books throughout the day when they normally read books anyway. This ensured that even my 3 year old learned something before we got to the hands-on portion of the unit study.
Once they had a better idea of what we were studying, we got started on the Chapter. The first activity is to challenge students to keep a diary of the things they do to take care of their bodies. I thought this was a fun task, because it made them really think about what they do on a routine basis and how it makes them healthier. (No, I don’t just pester them about brushing their teeth or taking a shower for no reason!)
As we went on, the kids were able to make their own homemade toothpowder, discovered when they would likely lose each of their baby teeth, played shadow tag, learned about calcium from a chicken bone in vinegar, made their own healthy snacks, and we even researched the different food groups and talked about how recommendations have changed from the USDA over the years.
I also got to show them how to take their own pulse, played some jump rope games with them, taught them about germs using glitter, and we made a poster about things they should avoid eating.
While I see how this is targeted more to early elementary students, I feel that my 8 and 10 year old still learned from it. With these activities, it helped them to better experience and visualize the concepts that they’ve heard before. Not only that, but by reading complimentary library books on the subjects, they were able to expand their vocabulary and teach their younger siblings some of the more in-depth information that they learned as well.
We had a good time using this book, and I can’t wait to dive into another chapter so we can do more hands-on activities. This has shown my kids that science can be fun. It has shown me that I don’t have to buy any fancy materials or prep for hours in order to give my kids a solid science education.
The key is to just get started and do it, and Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers makes the process simple to implement and enjoy.