Sunday, March 5, 2017

Apologia Swimming Creatures: A Review

The curriculum we chose for science this year is Apologia's Exploring Creation, Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day.  

How We Use It

Mostly as a read aloud.  I have the kids give me a Charlotte Mason style narration after most sections.  We read about 3 times a week for 3 or 4  pages.  Sometimes I also have the girls read it on their own, but I do find that they retain and enjoy the material more when we read the book together.  We will not likely make it through the entire book this year, but I'm ok with that.  On days when I am less available to work with them, the girls do supplementary activities in the notebooking journal.

The Exploring Creation series is written to be used in a certain order (according to the days of the Creation week).  We have not followed that sequence, but rather picked the subject that fit best with our curriculum for a given year.  There are points at which going out of order has felt less than ideal because the information does build on itself to a small extent from year to year, and because the difficulty of the writing increases as the series goes on.  Generally, however, we have found this approach to work just fine.

What We Love

Conversational Tone- There are lots of questions peppered throughout the text to keep kids engaged, and the author often gives information in a way that relates to experiences kids typically understand.

Sense of Wonder- The author is awed by the complex facets of God's creation, and the excitement is contagious.

Great Pictures-   Sometimes the pictures are helpful at illustrating a key concept that is difficult to explain with words alone.  Other images, however are just plain fun- showing some obscure creature like the almost entirely flat pipa pipa toad who suctions his food into his mouth like a vacuum.  I often find myself wishing the pictures were a little bigger though.

Systematic- The book generally works through levels of classification from broad to narrow; so you feel like you are actually getting somewhere as you move through the chapters.  A systematic approach can easily be too dry for kids, but this text generally avoids that pitfall.

Do-Able Experiments- Horray for science experiments that don't require a separate trip to Walmart or an order from an online biology resource company!   Lots of the ideas given only require household materials.  (We generally avoid the ones that require purchasing things we don't already have)  Some activities that are tucked into the text don't require any materials at all.

Here we are having fun testing the effectiveness of blubber at insulating seal and whales with our hands covered with petroleum jelly in a bowl full of ice water!

What I Would Change

If I were designing the book I would put slightly less text on a page.  The lack of white space makes my brain hurt a little bit.  Also-  stories would make the writing even more engaging.  (anecdotes about scientists, stories of real animals, etc)

Overall, though, I think
Exploring Creation: Swimming Creatures is a great resource for Christian home school families.

We can't wait for the next time we go to the aquarium.  Because of our increased understanding and interest I anticipate an even richer experience than it has been in the past.  I am thankful for publishers like Apologia who pursue both academic rigor and delight in the Lord.