Concepts & Challenges Middle Grade Science
A secular science option by Pearson Learning Group, Concepts & Challenges for use at the middle grades that won't overwhelm your reader. The content is written at a 5th to 6th grade reading level, information is presented in manageable pieces, photos and/or illustrations appear on almost every page, and each lesson is contained in a 2-page lesson format. Students who tend to be a little more visual in their learning style can be overwhelmed when looking at a full page of text and this series offers a nice combination of textual information and online elements for a user-friendly science curriculum.
The Student Text offers a handy reference section at the front of the book that lists lesson and page references for all of the hands-on activities and special lesson features found throughout the text. Before jumping into the chapters, students first work through the 'handbook' sections, which are focused on developing scientific skills and conducting investigations. The concepts learned in the 'handbooks' will be applied throughout the rest of the lessons. The first page of every chapter holds a list of information covered in the lesson along with any special sections or labs found therein. Every 2-page lesson follows the same format: the objective is stated, key terms are listed, the textual information is broken down into bite-size pieces of information, 'checking concepts' questions reviews the content learning, and 'critical thinking' is intended to challenge the student to use higher order thinking. Other features include: Investigate, which gets the student thinking; Challenge Features (Building Science Skills, Health & Safety Tips, Interpreting Visuals, Web InfoSearch, Building Math Skills, Designing an Experiment) which offer the student an opportunity to develop important skills; and Lesson Features (Real-Life Science, How Do They Know That?, Science and Technology, People in Science, Integrating the Sciences) that provide articles and activities that enhance the lesson content. The activities found in the lessons are all standards-based and intended to promote scientific inquiry. Science & Technology, Building Math Skills, Health and Safety Tips, Building Social Studies Skills, and Integrating the Sciences are all intended to make cross-curricular connections into other subject areas. "The Big Idea" two-page spread found in each chapter pulls the chapter content all together. A lab activity rounds out each chapter to employ concepts from the chapter and scientific inquiry. Most of the labs can be done with easily accessible items, and step-by-step instructions are found in both the student and teacher editions of the text. Each chapter ends with "Challenges" which includes a chapter review and summary for quick reference, "key term challenges" (matching and fill-in-the-blank exercises using the key lesson terms), "content challenges" (multiple choice and true/false questions), and "concept challenges" (written responses and other questions to review the chapter content and/or prepare for the chapter test). You will occasionally find a reference within a lesson that directs you to go online for an activity or research. All instruction for accessing these activities is given in both the student and teacher text. Appendices include reference sections for the metric system, periodic table of elements, chemical elements, science terms, math concepts, and formulas. A helpful glossary rounds out the book.
The Teacher Edition is easy to use, just be sure to read the information provided at the front of it before you begin the course with students. It explains each component of the program - the 2-page lesson format, the parts of each lesson, how to prepare the lesson and use the planning guide for each chapter. A complete list of materials and equipment for Investigates, Hands-On Activities, and Lab Activities is also found at the front of the teacher text. The main portion of the teacher edition includes small-format student pages with additional instruction, information, and resources for the teacher. The planning guide at the beginning of each chapter is a great tool for busy parents and teachers. This chart includes an approximate number of days in which to complete the chapter and a breakdown of the lessons. Please note there there is a website with additional teaching for this course that is mentioned throughout the book but this website is no longer active. Because this website is no longer online, some resources such as tests, lesson reviews and enrichment pages are not accessible.
The Lab Manual is a consumable workbook for students to record information while performing labs. It also includes laboratory skills worksheets that are referenced in the margin of the teacher book. The Lab Answer Key includes a complete list of materials and equipment required to do the labs in the Lab Manual. Also included are additional notes to complete the labs and suggested answers. Looking through the labs and the list of suggested materials, I feel like some of the supplies might be difficult to acquire. You can purchase some of the special equipment, such as graduated cylinders, triple-beam balance, beakers, ring stands, clamps, etc.; or you could choose to skip those labs. If you choose not to use the lab manual, simply use the activities found in the student text for the hands-on element of the program. Many of the labs in the Lab Manual are more conducive to a classroom setting.
Overall, the content is good and the program is easy to implement. If you're looking for a secular science program that isn't overwhelming, this might be a good fit for your student.