Earth Science

A Doorway of Amethyst

Beginning Geology
Book Cover
Author(s): 
Mary Daly
Illustrator(s): 
Margy Jakos
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Hedge School
Binding: 
Spiralbound
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Here is a geology text that assumes no conflict between Christianity and science and is faithful to Church teaching. This book covers basic topics in geology, including the Earth's age and composition, the dynamics of continental plate motion, classification of rocks and soil, effects of glaciers, radiometric dating, and more. The illustrations are lovely and hand-drawn – not what you would expect in a textbook. However, I prefer a few glossy photographs as well, but you can find these on the internet. I was unfamiliar with many of the geologic terms so I learned a lot along side my 12-year-old daughter. I especially appreciated the author's explanation of evolution in the appendix and Chapter 11 on the geologic column in the Williston Basin.

I allotted 18 weeks to finish this book, but it took 22 weeks, rushing a bit. The book has suggested research activities at the end of most chapters, but we did not do very many of them. (I had already ”planned” one semester of chemistry to follow one semester of geology.) The last chapter consists of short biographies of mostly Catholic scientists. There is also a suggested reading list at the end of the book. Exercises are included at the end of each chapter - lots of crosswords, matching, fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, etc. There are also poems interspersed throughout the text to aid in memorization. If we had done more research activities and added supplemental reading, this book would expanded into a full-year course. There were no tests included so it was necessary to make some to reinforce the material.

Mary Daly mostly separates scientific considerations from philosophical ones. She sticks her opinions in the appendices. However, the one exception is in the first chapter when she explains charitably that Young Earth Creationism is inconsistent with scientific evidence.

Here are some of the ideas (as far as I can understand) that really distinguish this book from most geology texts aimed at the home school market:

  • The text is consistent with our Catholic Faith.
  • Radiometric dating of rocks shows that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.
  • While we are all descended from two first parents, the fossil record points to a single "family tree of life" of which we are a part.
  • Evolution of new species by natural selection is an incomplete explanation of the fossil record. In an appendix, the author suggests that additional mechanism is needed to account for the sudden appearance of new species in the fossil record. John Davison, a professor of zoology, developed a semi-meiotic hypothesis as just this sort of mechanism. I found this very intriguing since it is compatible with what is observed and is testable. Mary Daly also suggests that some paleontologists have a philosophical bias that prevents them from considering other scientific explanations.
  • The geologic record does not support a worldwide flood. Mary Daly explains there is not enough water on Earth to do this. She suggests that Noah's flood was probably a catastrophic flood that affected the part of the world known to the inspired writer.

Overall, I think A Doorway of Amethyst is a very good, well-written geology text. I am grateful that Mary Daly took the time to write it. I recommend it and plan to use it again. Next time, I would want to write cumulative quizzes for each chapter, allow more time for supplemental reading, and incorporate more projects and writing assignments. (I can dream, anyway.)

You can view sample pages on the author's Hedge School website

This is a 1st edition of the text, and my daughter found quite a few typographical errors in it.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Reviewed by Pam Blakeslee

Review Date: 
5-31-2012

A Look at Minerals

from Galena to Gold
Book cover: 'A Look at Minerals: from Galena to Gold'
Author(s): 
Jo S. Kittinger
Copyright: 
1998
Publisher: 
Franklin Watts/Grolier
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
64 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

A surprisingly interesting (and fairly in-depth) picture book that introduces children to minerals - which include metals and gems. Many full color photos highlight and enhance the text, which covers topics such as Mohs' Scale of Mineral Hardness, ice crystals, cleavage planes (the way minerals break when cut) of various minerals, metals in their natural state, special metals like gold, silver and platinum, how various minerals form and what they look like in their natural state. My children and I found this to be quite an interesting book.

Review Date: 
4-25-01
Reviewed by: 

A Look at Rocks

from Coal to Kimberlite
Book cover: 'A Look at Rocks: from Coal to Kimberlite'
Author(s): 
Jo S. Kittinger
Copyright: 
1997
Publisher: 
Franklin Watts/Grolier
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
64 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

I really didn't expect to get much out of a children's picture book on rocks. Rocks are, well, rocks! I was wrong. Mrs. Kittinger has done a fine job in presenting various types of rock, how they are formed in nature (with a significant emphasis on volcanoes) and the various fascinating and often beautiful varieties of rocks. There are many stunning photos and fascinating statistics on rock-related items from Mount Rushmore (and it's lesser known "sister-sculpture" - Stone Mountain - of some "monumental" figures of the Confederacy) to the Grand Canyon to amazing volcano formations. The book also includes a glossary, an index, suggestions for further reading and internet resources for rock collectors.

Review Date: 
4-25-01
Reviewed by: 

Caves and Caverns

Author(s): 
Gail Gibbons
ISBN: 
152 013 652
Copyright: 
1993
Publisher: 
Voyager Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a terrific children's picture books, with lots of details about different parts and features of caves, how caves form and plants and creatures that can live inside of caves. Gail Gibbons has a nice balance of real information that is presented in an easy-to-understand format.

Here's a little sample of the style and content:

"Next, the cavers carefully enter the variable temperature zone. The temperature doesn't change as much here as it does in the twilight zone. Mushrooms, molds, and other fungi grow here. It is dark!"

Review Date: 
3-6-06
Reviewed by: 

Close to the Wind

The Beaufort Scale
Author(s): 
Peter Malone
ISBN: 
399 243 992
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Putnam Juvenile
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Sometimes your casual pick-up-what-looks-good from the library hits jackpot--last week it was one of those instances for us. Close to the Wind by Peter Malone gets very close to being the picture book par excellence. In every aspect, this gem brings the very best of the world of picture books: beautiful, detail-rich illustrations, a captivating story, plenty of educational content, and great use of visual diagrams, side notes and explanatory illustrations.

Good picture books, I am always exclaiming, are so helpful in the homeschool. What did we know about the Beaufort Scale before this find? Next to nil. Now, not only we learned about the useful scale that measures wind based on detailed observations, we also learned information on ship-building, sails, the life of sailors, curious entries in sailor's glossary, how many trees are cut down to build a ship, and the sad destiny of many ships after their many years of service.

Review Date: 
2-21-2008
Reviewed by: 

Earth Science for Every Kid

Book cover: 'Earth Science for Every Kid'
Author(s): 
Janice Van Cleave
Copyright: 
1991
Publisher: 
John Wiley and Sons
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
231 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

In the Van Cleave tradition, this book presents 101 experiments that are simple, yet informative, and can easily be performed in the home. The book covers seven major segments: Earth in Space, Rocks and Minerals, Crustal Movement, Erosion, Atmosphere, Weather and Oceans. Some experiments are designed to demonstrate, with simple objects, properties of the earth and its components such as "how the composition of the Earth affects its motion" and "how the speed and direction of air affect falling rain." These type of experiments generally cover things which can't be directly experimented with but can be understood through other things. Other experiments determine actual properties by experimenting with salt, water, ice, etc. to more directly understand how they work.

Review Date: 
4-5-01
Reviewed by: 

Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roll

Book cover: 'Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roll'
Author(s): 
Franklyn M. Branley
Illustrator(s): 
True Kelley
Copyright: 
1999
Publisher: 
HarperTrophy
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This simple, nicely illustrated (cartoon-like pictures) children's book explains important concepts of science in a very easy-to-understand fashion. The reader is introduced to the way thunderclouds form and where thunder and lightning come from. The scientific content is substantial and very accessible. The story line is rounded out with tips for staying safe during a storm. My children have been fascinated by the details about the inside of a thundercloud, how fast sound and light travel, how you can measure the distance thunder travels and more. This title has been a big favorite with all of my children for a number of years and, rather than being made nervous by the dangers mentioned in the book, a little knowledge seems to be a comforting thing.

Additional notes: 

Copyrights 1985/1999

Review Date: 
7-18-04
Reviewed by: 

How We Learned the Earth is Round

Book cover: 'How We Learned the Earth is Round'
Author(s): 
Patricia Lauber
Copyright: 
1990
Publisher: 
Harper Collins
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

A history and science picture book that covers the development of man's understanding of the shape of the earth focusing on the discoveries of the Greeks and on the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Magellan.
Currently out-of-print

Review Date: 
4-5-01
Reviewed by: 

Journey into Amazing Caves

Copyright: 
2004
Publisher: 
IMAX
Binding: 
Other
Subject(s): 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This weekend we rented Journey into Amazing Caves (an IMAX film). It's a beautifully filmed documentary that traces a group of scientists' explorations into caves in the Grand Canyon, ice caves in Greenland and underwater caves on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The scientists are searching for "extremophiles" - bacteria and other small creatures that survive extreme conditions and may be useful for medicines.

Just the natural beauty of these remote places is absolutely breathtaking. But watching the "making of" gives you an even greater appreciation as you realize the challenges and dangers of "extreme photography". Wow.

My children saw this before I had a chance to. I heard them from the other room going ... Woah... Woooah.... Wooooooah... as the team kayaked down a beautiful river.

The movie references the website of one of the team members who also works as a teaching assistant and put this website together for her grade school class...Nancy's Expedition Diary (I especially liked the Q & A in the "Ask Nancy" part.)

We love these kinds of documentaries that "work" for a wide age range and help spark an interest in science while providing some real substance. I have to admit that it was quite delightful the next day to see my 8 year old daughter out in our cold, snowy backyard digging into our sandbox and pretending she was a scientist "out exploring."

Review Date: 
3-6-06
Reviewed by: 

Lightning

Book cover: 'Lightning'
Author(s): 
Seymour Simon
Copyright: 
1997
Publisher: 
Morrow Books/Harper Collins
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Seymour Simon, famous for his children's science books illustrated with stunning photography, hits another home run with Lightning. This fascinating book details facts and fascinating statistics about lightning with lots of the "wow!" effect that helps keep middle-schoolers interested in science. Did you know that scientists have discovered new types of lightning within the past ten years? How long would the electricity from one bolt of lightning power one lightbulb? These and many more fascinating photos and facts await the reader of this very nice science book. I really like to have these kinds of books around my house to help my children get a lot more out of science than I did as a child.

Review Date: 
7-18-04
Reviewed by: 

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