Friday, February 19, 2016

A Solid Beginning to Chemistry: The Elements

Last summer, as I was contemplating First Daughter's chemistry course for third grade, I read about a new book on the Mater Amabilis facebook page. (Oh, what a wealth of resources and wisdom that page is! Join it!) Ellen Johnston McHenry at the Basement Workshop has created a number of resources for teaching chemistry, biology, and other subjects. The Elements: Ingredients of the Universe interested me as it could be the main textbook for our chemistry course and it seemed to be aimed right at First Daughter's level. I purchased the book and CD. The book contains all the text, activities, and lots of supplements. The CD allowed me to print the activity pages so we didn't have to write in the book (as intended by the publisher). It also includes the songs, which you can download separately if you like. I put the songs on our science playlist.

The Elements is designed for ages 8-13. First Daughter turned nine just after the school year started last fall. Her reading level is probably a bit higher than third grade, and I intended to assign the text to be read independently and then narrated. There are eight chapters in the book. You can see a sample of the first two chapters online. The text discusses the properties and definition of an element, the periodic table, atoms, and an introduction to the different families of elements (alkali, halogen, noble gases, etc.). The family chapters reminded me of the spirit of books like the The Burgess Bird Book for Children, giving personality to the behaviors seen in different groups of elements.

Within each chapter are lots of activities and the end of each chapter is a comic of The Atomic Chef. There are even more activities in the Teacher's Section at the end of the book. One of our favorite parts of the study was visiting the Basement Workshop Youtube channel where there were playlists of videos created to match the studies in the book. (Links to the Youtube channel are in the text.)

First Daughter's reading level was advanced for a third grader, but she definitely found the text challenging. I had planned on one chapter a week read independently plus an additional day when we would complete an activity or two together. After a few weeks, it became clear she was not able to narrate adequately, so I divided each chapter into two and read them over two weeks. I also worked through most of the activities with her to make sure she understood them. At the slower pace, she was able to remember much of the information. Most of the activities and videos were intriguing enough to pull the sixth grade boy over as well. In fact, he read much of the text over her shoulder, so I believe the stated age range is accurate.

For the most part, the activities First Daughter completed with me were designed and recommended in The Elements. I did encourage her to spend some time with EIN-O's Molecular Models Kit (originally used with Noeo Chemistry 1 which you can find here and which I wrote about here) and the Photographic Card Deck of The Elements which I received one year for Christmas because it's awesome.

This text was a solid beginning to our third grade study of chemistry. We spent fourteen weeks on this text and then moved on to some other chemistry books and resources I had, mainly from Noeo Chemistry 1. I imagine I'll write about those sometime, too.

The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). I like to use the little I earn on the blog to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts (so they'll really be from me because the kids say I don't have any money).

Links to the Basement Workshop Store and Noeo Science are not affiliate links. I receive nothing from them, but perhaps you'll find them useful. 

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