Science Elementary - Text

Behold and See 3

Book cover: 'Behold and See 3'
Author(s): 
Suchi Myjak
Copyright: 
2003
Publisher: 
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Binding: 
Spiralbound
Number of pages: 
266 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

I've been telling my friends who've asked about this book that I've never felt enthusiastic about a science textbook until now. This beautiful book, printed in full color on thick, glossy pages is really remarkable. The author, Suchi Myjak, is a Catholic homeschool mother with a Bachelors and Masters in Electrical Engineering. She worked in a chip design group at Intel Corporation until the birth of her first child.

There are three areas in which I think this book particularly excels...

First are the beautiful watercolor illustrations by Cameron Smith. (You can view some of his works on his website at http://www.frangelico.org). These illustrations are engaging and will really help draw students into the wonder and amazement of God's creation. The text also includes a number of beautiful photographs.

Second is how engaging the book is. Now, the word 'engaging' is thrown around a lot and usually has to do with how readable and interesting a book is. Behold and See 3 is certainly engaging in this respect. But it goes even deeper to a more complete meaning of 'engaging' that involves the active participation of the student in more fully understanding concepts by use of reflective questions, games, comparison charts and meaningful (but simple) experiments and hands-on activities (like mapping the tongue and making a mini-ecosystem in a bottle).

Third is its Catholic content. Behold and See 3 exceeds my expectations in this regard. Catholic material isn't just tacked on to an ordinary text, it is naturally incorporated into the text. It actually uses ideas familiar to Catholic children from the spiritual realm to better understand science (while retaining an excellent sense of the purpose of science in helping our children get to heaven). For example, in the introduction to the Chapter on Matter, the author helps children understand the concept of matter by contrasting it with the spiritual world that we cannot see and that science cannot study. Also, religious stained-glass windows are used to enhance part of the discussion about light and EWTN is used as an example of something that uses satellite technology. The text is further enhanced by quotations from the Holy Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

After an introductory chapter that explores the idea of what science is, why we study it, some basics on the scientific method and instructions for starting and keeping a science notebook, the text covers three primary areas:

The first segment, on Physical Science, includes chapters on Matter, Force and Energy and Astronomy. In this segment, children will study: states and properties of matter, mass and volume, forces, gravity, magnetism, friction, light, sound, the Earth's crust and atmosphere, the sun, the moon, keeping time, day and night, the solar system, the stars, space travel and satellites.

The second segment, Life Science, includes chapters on Animals, Plants and Ecology. This segment covers: animal classification, animal protection, hibernation and migration, the differences between animals and man, 'wild' and 'tame' flowers, parts of plants, seeds and growing plants, what plants need to grow, plants we eat, plants and the seasons, trees, animal habitats, food chains and food webs, ecosystems and stewardship of God's creation.

The third segment, on the Human Body, includes chapters on Anatomy, the Senses and Nutrition/Health. This segment covers: body proportions, skin pigment, the skeleton, joints, muscles, the heart, lungs and breathing, circulation, the brain, the five senses, nutrients, a balanced diet, food groups, the virtue of moderation, exercise and food safety.

I'm really very, very impressed with this book. Full-color books like this are expensive to produce, particularly for small Catholic companies, but I think that the quality of this text is well-worth its price (approximately $45).

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

This book was donated for review by Catholic Heritage Curricula

Review Date: 
7-16-03
Reviewed by: 

Catholic Stories from Science 2

Book cover: 'Catholic Stories from Science 2'
Author(s): 
Nancy Nicholson
Copyright: 
2003
Publisher: 
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
113 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This book offers thirty-six stories about God's amazing world that very nicely brings science back to its creator and helps children make connections between faith and reason. We've had the earlier edition of this book for a number of years and I have found many tidbits about nature that were new and very interesting to me - especially information about why God made things the way that he did and what is good and useful about his creation.

This new edition includes many new stories and looks more like a grade school workbook - in size and appearance as well as having space for the students to answer the chapter questions right in the book. In addition to the Catholic content I really like this book because 1. it is loaded with interesting content, 2. it is written in an appealing story-like format, 3. it is not "dumbed-down" or written in a condescending tone like so many textbooks. Here's a brief excerpt to give you a sense of the style and content:

"God has a similar system for supplying water to places that don't get much rain in the summer. Instead of a freezer, God uses tall, snow-covered mountains to store up icy snow. In some mountain ranges, like the Rocky Mountains that stretch north and south across Canada and the United States, peaks often receive thirty or forty feet of snow each year. That is nearly enough snow to bury a Ferris wheel! Even after winter has passed, the cool mountain air allows the snow to melt very slowly. Melting snow slips into creeks and rivers that carry needed water to farms and cities far away. Some of those farms and cities don't get much rain in the summer. Some of them don't even have snow in the winter. But the people who live there are happy to drink and swim in the water that came from God's faraway frozen mountains." (from "Merciful Rain" pgs. 59-61)

Click here to read more about Catholic Heritage Curricula's 2nd grade science program

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

This title was donated for review by Catholic Heritage Curricula

Review Date: 
5-2-03
Reviewed by: 

Science 4 for Young Catholics

Book cover: 'Science 4 for Young Catholics'
Author(s): 
Dr. Gregory Townsend
Copyright: 
1999
Publisher: 
Seton Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
197 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This 4th grade science textbook is nicely laid out and easy to use. Each chapter begins with a brief biography of a famous Catholic scientist, like Copernicus, Mendel and Pasteur, followed by four literal comprehension questions. The goals of the chapter and an outline are also provided at the beginning of each chapter. Interspersed among the text of the chapters are experiments, activities, and review questions. There are also review study pages at the end of the chapter.

Since it is a Catholic text, the author inserts things to think about which are distinctly Christian. For example, in the chapter about plants, the text offers an explanation of the plant dying to release a seed. There is a picture of a Crucifix on the page and an accompanying caption explains, " . . .a flower dying to produce a seed reminds us of how Jesus suffered and died in order that we might have new life."

The topics covered in this course are The Heavens; The Earth, Moon and Space; Oceans, Weather and Climate; Water and Material Things; Machines; Living Things; The Wonder of Man; and Health. Many states require a health component and this last chapter handily takes care of that requirement.

The topics are arranged in the order of creation, which is great for religion, but not necessarily good for the study of science. If done that way, the student starts with things which are least known to him (the heavens), instead of those things which are most known. However, most secular science texts also start with things least known, like cells. A significant drawback to the text is that there are few if any true "thinking" questions. The questions for review are all explicitly literal comprehension. Even the experiments and activities do not ask the student to reflect about what he has observed or to draw conclusions. That seems to leave out a very important element in the study of science.

If supplemented with discussion and hands on activities, this could be a useful text because of the information it provides. The chapters do not rely or build upon one another, so you could teach the topics in any order you choose.

Although there are many lovely illustrations in this book, I found the cheesy illustrations (such as a cartoonish picture of a sun with sunglasses in the astronomy section) annoying and in conflict with how I want my children to learn to love science. (A.V.H.)

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: