There are 36 lessons divided into three sections: Animals (20), Human Body (10), and Plants (6). The guide has schedules set up for both 2-day and 5-day sessions per lesson. We used the 2-day, and for the most part it worked. There were weeks when we ended up doing science every day because there was a lot of information covered (this pretty much only happened in the Animals section).
What I Liked
*The program outline – I like having the bones of a program already laid out for me in a way that makes it easily customizable. It made sense and nothing covered was over the head of a six-year old.
*The spines – All of the main spines are good: Kingfisher’s First Encyclopedia of Animals, DK First Human Body Encyclopedia, and The Life of Plants : Plant Parts. It is not enough to only read the blurbs/pages from the books listed in the lesson outline. You really need to have a few other books or videos at the ready.
*Supplementals (my own) – I supplemented pretty much every lesson with books (fiction and non-fiction) and videos. Without the extras, the program is a bit on the bare bones side. I also tried to find fiction books that corresponded to the lesson.
What I didn’t Like
*The VanCleave books – not a fan of the VanCleave book included in the materials. There are better book out there, especially for human body and plant experiments.
*Animal section – there was too much focus on individual animals and not enough on the groups they belonged to (e.g. mammals, birds, reptiles, etc…). Only one part of one lesson respectively was dedicated to the groups. It made the section feel somewhat disjointed.
*Suggested supplemental – there were some books suggested in the materials, but I found them to be not very useful (specifically for the lessons on habitats).
*Other Supplementals – it was hard at times to find supplemental books or videos for certain topics. Part of it was the lack of videos on the covered topics in my library system, and partly because I don’t have a subscription to Discovery Education Plus Streaming (all of the video selections on the Yahoo! group were from here). Having that would have made my video-finding issues mostly moot. Books were easy to find except for a handful of animals (mostly farm animals, and most of the non-fiction books I found dealt with raising/breeding them), two of the human body (urinary system – I found nothing, and reproduction – I don’t want to go that in-depth right now), and the plants lesson about nuts, cones, and spores.
What I Would Do Differently
I like how the sections on the human body and plants are laid out, so those will stay the same. However, I am going to slightly restructure the section on animals. I don’t have details as I won’t do ES Biology again until fall of 2016.
Instead of spending only part of one lesson on a given group (mammals, birds, reptiles, etc…) I will spend 1-2 lessons on the overall group. Then I’ll pick various animals already included in the outline to cover. So for mammals, it might look something like this:
- Land mammals
- Several individual species of land mammals
- Water mammals
- Several individual species of water mammals
We made a valiant attempt at the lapbook, but gave up on it sometime in December. Bean liked doing it for the most part, but it added extra time that we didn’t necessarily have with two littles underfoot. Bean was also getting to the point of wanting to just slap everything in without coloring it. So as enjoyable as it was at first, ultimately it was not a good fit for us. I won’t do it again unless one of the littles shows a strong inclination towards being crafty.
Admittedly, we did were not consistent on completing experiments. Some of this stems from my two littles. Some of it from laziness on my part. Bean was always game – she loves them. Once we hit the sections on the human body and plants, we did experiments on most weeks. It was the animal section specifically that was short-changed (on my part).
Human Body: We used the Magic School Bus Human Body Kit (most of them worked) and experiments from some of the body books we read (all successful).
Plants: The experiments either came from the books we used, or from ones I’d done as a child. There’s no need to buy a plant experiment book.
Overall, Elemental Science Biology did its job – it created pegs, and months after the fact, Bean still remembers things and can use that knowledge in the appropriate context. I will use this with my other two, and I would recommend it to others. It is gentle in its approach, but at the same time, the knowledge sticks (at least it did for Bean).