Tuesday 28 May 2013

Group Science

This year, I've been using the Apologia Elementary Science: Exploring Creation with Human anatomy and physiology

to teach a home education group. This may seem an unusual use of the book.

The previous year, I taught a group of children from 7 to 11 science in a home education group setting. We mainly looked at forces but when I did end of year evaluations, these showed rather what I had suspected, that the topic was too easy for some and too hard for others. This really depended on the type of science, and also maths, that they had done before.

This year, I wanted something which would be useful for the whole group: something that would stretch those who had done a fair amount of science but wouldn't be too difficult for those who had done very little and were at the younger end of the age range. 

The Apologia Elementary books are designed for Christian home educators and are intended for use in families with children from 6 to 13 years old.

Each family has brought the Apologia Human anatomy and physiology book and reads a lesson each month. It is up to them whether to do the activities but I usually ask the children to bring something connected with their learning to the group; this might be a poster about smoking or a meal plan with pictures for the nutrition chapter. Sometimes, these activities are from the book and sometimes of my own devising.

At the class, I go over the chapter usually with a different activities. For a few chapters, I have done a major activity with the class, for example, in the nutrition chapter, we did the vitamin C testing in the class as it seemed silly for each family to acquire a bottle of iodine. 

Playdough cell -a class activity for the cell

Nutrition theme park-project done by child to show to the group

How has this worked?

Generally, well although over the year the group has become larger and its age range has increased from 6-11 at the start of the year to 4-12 now.

So what has worked well?
  • Reading the chapter in advance of each lesson. This has meant that even the smaller children can have an effective grasp of what is being taught.
  • Activities to bring to the class.
  • Hands-on activities in the group.
  • The chapters have a considerable amount of information embedded in them. This means that it is not easy to read a chapter in one sitting. I read the book to my six year old, one section per day and then talk about that section the next day before reading the next section. Reading the book in this way has been the most effective way of both enjoying and retaining the information.
  • Each chapter stands alone so new families can join in without feeling behind or needing to catch up.
What has worked less well?
  • The book isn't cheap especially for families for whom it is a second science curriculum. Here, in the UK, it is cheapest from Conquest Books or Ichthus Resources both of whom sell the book for £23 plus postage.
  • Running the Apologia alongside other science curricula materials can be  too much. We, as a family, do some fun science which just fits in but hasn't proved a problem, however, this fun science is way off a full curriculum.
  • Some of the chapters seem much more difficult: the section on the muscles seemed especially difficult.
I haven't done a formal evaluation yet this year so await findings! There does appear to be some interest from some of the younger children. Youngest Son is fascinated by the rather beautiful picture of the inner ear. I may well include him more, in reading the chapter, at home, even if he doesn't join the group sessions.

It would be good to hear from anyone else who has taught science in this type of setting.


  1. Playdough the cell~!! Now that is an awesome idea, and would lend itself to so many other avenues with playdough. Loved it.

    The Paper Maid

    1. Yes, this was fun. We used playdough to show oxygenated blood leaving the lungs and deoxygenated blood returning, too. Really useful for modelling concepts!

  2. This is really interesting for me. We are doing the same book and have only just finished the muscles!! A group situation would have been really helpful for accountability! We might just finish the book by the time my son is 13!

    1. I do think muscles were the most difficult chapter! The next few seem much more fun.

  3. I love the Apologia books. We did the Human Body last year and this year did Flying Creatures. I like the group setting.

    1. Flying Creatures is on our list to do at some point.