It’s spring break where we are and although we’re not officially taking a break, we all decided to homeschool “light”. This time of the year usually finds me thinking and planning for the coming school year. It also is a good time to look back, congratulate ourselves for what we’ve accomplished, and tell ourselves to keep going with just a few more months left.
As I lay in bed this morning, I recollected with thankfulness the very helpful curricula I’ve discovered these past months. Of course there’s All About Spelling that I’ve somewhat written about in To the Parent with a Struggling Reader. Since writing that post, I’ve seen quite an improvement in my 2nd grader’s reading, spelling and writing. We are now finishing up level 2 of the said program.
I will dedicate this post, however, to the science resource that I stumbled upon recently and now implementing with the same child. It is aptly called Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding or BFSU. Here’s a detailed review from Cathy Duffy. We are currently using the kindle version of the first volume of this series, but as mentioned in the review, printed books and pdfs are also available.
What’s so different about BSFU?
So far, the science curricula I’ve used with the children gives me the impression that science is just a body of knowledge to be learned, read, memorised. I knew science is so much more than content. I knew science is best learned through “doing”, through discovery, and through developing scientific thinking. I had everything we needed to learn on our shelves but I knew it took more than exposure to facts for a child to truly learn to think scientifically. And I had no idea how to do that until reading BFSU.
BFSU aims to cover major fields of science with a framework that connects these fields thereby developing a in a child the skill of inquiry that becomes a habit for life. It achieves this goal by:
First, major ideas and concepts are digested into easy-to-follow, incremental steps (individual lessons) that build logically and systematically. By following this logical, steppingstone-like sequence, each new lesson provides a natural review and reinforcement of what has gone before and leads to a solid, integrated knowledge and understanding of the whole.
Second, to develop skills of inquiry, each lesson involves children in first-hand observing, organising, and thinking their way toward rational conclusions. Interest and motivation are maintained by using children’s own findings and experiences as the centre of study. — Dr. Bernard J Nebel (BFSU Volume 1)
The cornerstone of BFSU is the flowchart that correlates four major fields of science that will be followed in presenting lessons. The four fields are a) the nature of matter, b) life science, c) physical science, and d) earth and space science. The lessons cannot be presented in a random order but must take into account prerequisite lessons that the flowchart indicates.
A lesson usually begins with an observation activity that leads to the presentation of concepts. The text details how the teacher/parent is to present the concepts (both content and how to go about doing it) so that children will learn to think, ask questions and discover on their own. It also includes question and answer points, suggestion for additional resources (books, videos), as well as suggestions for how to follow up learning in everyday life (the program originally designed for schools).
For instance, after some sessions that delved on the states of matter, we had a lesson that focused on gases, this being the state of matter that children tend to take for granted. We blew on stuff (our hands, each other, a candle). We blew bubbles using a straw. We blew up a balloon. We discussed why we don’t feel air pushing down on us.
Then we asked ourselves how we can show that air also takes up space like all matter does. We proved that it did using a container filled with coloured water and a drinking glass with a dry paper towel inserted within.
After submerging the glass straight into the water and lifting up the glass, we found that the paper towel remained dry.
Water didn’t get into the drinking glass since the air inside it was taking up space! It was only when we tipped the glass while submerging that we slowly let the water in and the air out.
To find out if air has weight, we used our blown up balloon and compared its weight to a deflated one. We made a scale of sorts with a ruler and some strings.
Then we read some suggested books to further reinforce our learning.
The wonderful thing is that this particular lesson was done after we had spent some time on the concept of “organization”. We began with sorting things into biological, nonliving natural, and man made categories. Then, we sorted things into solids, liquids, and gases. We investigated different materials to come up with the conclusion that all matter took up space and had weight.
Following this lesson focusing on air, we also studied the particulate nature of matter. We broke down a solid into tiny particles (clay), used a spray bottle to see smaller water drops, and again blew tiny bubbles in water to see “broken down” air. After inspecting types of materials that solids are made of (metal, plastic, clay, stone, rubber, wood), the concept of molecules and atoms will then be introduced shortly, following a lesson on magnets. This will be done side by side with lessons on mapping skills (north, south, east, west), the concept of gravity, and the earth’s rotation.
We’re not exploring one field of science but we’re introducing concepts from each field to further reinforce others so that we hopefully, indeed, build a foundation in scientific understanding!
Find out more by reading the sample’s first few pages of the kindle version linked above.
Here are some other helpful links from homeschoolers who have used BFSU:
- a suggested schedule shared publicly in this welltrainedmind forum thread
- a list of supplies and books to be used in each lesson in Our Small Corner
- detailed lesson plans in Creatin’ Classical Chaos
Moreover, there is a yahoo group of BSFU users and various resources on the internet abound.
Note: This resource is secular in nature.