Sonlight’s Science D course teaches zoology, human anatomy, and botany at a level appropriate for grades three through five. There are two options: either a four-days-per-week course or five-days-per-week. With either course, an instructor’s guide is the central item in the course.
Both instructor’s guides contain lesson plans, instructional information for the teacher, and activity pages for the student. Instructor’s guides come as three-hole-punched, looseleaf pages for you to insert in your own binder. You can purchase extra sets of student activity pages if you need them. Reduced images of student activity pages with overprinted answers are included within the instructional material as your answer keys.
You will need additional books and resources that provide the actual course content. For both the 4-day and 5-day courses. These include:
- The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body
- TOPS 39: Green Thumbs: Corn and Beans
- TOPS 38: Green Thumbs: Radishes
- Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution (DVD)
- The Usborne Internet-Linked Mysteries and Marvels of Nature
- Discover and Do Level 3 (DVD)
- Real Science 4 Kids: Biology Level 1
- Lyrical Life Science 1 and 2 (audio CD and workbook sets) are optional.
The 5-day course adds two more resources:
- The Usborne Internet-Linked First Encyclopedia of Seas and Oceans
- Listening to Crickets
As is the case with Sonlight courses in general, the “supplemental” resources are outstanding. However, some of these resources occasionally present information that assumes acceptance of the theory of evolution as well as an old age for the earth. A thoughtful explanation at the front of the guide offers suggestions for parents for handling content with which they might not agree.
Science D does not have you read straight through each book. Instead, lesson plans select appropriate sections from each resource (even the DVDs) to use when each topic is addressed in the lesson plan. The daily lesson plans list the resources to be used along with particular pages, chapters, tracks, etc. You just follow through the chart for the week. If an assignment has an “N” alongside it, this indicates that there are notes in the teaching information below that you should read. The notes also provide details for “Do Together” activities, but other than that, it’s as simple as following the chart for each day.
Lesson plans help parents with discussion suggestions and activities. Aside from the experiments (see below), there are occasional hands-on activities such as creating an artwork showing various stages of a frog’s life cycle (page 23) and making a hummingbird feeder ( page 41). There are even more activity suggestions in the 5-day course such as discussions, hands-on projects, creative interactions, or internet research.
There are generally two or three student activity sheets per week for the 4-day course and from three to five sheets for the 5-day course. Lesson plans show when to complete sections on these sheets. Activity sheets have colorful illustrations along with questions and activities in many different formats. Optional “Challenge!” questions that appear from time to time can be used with children who are able to answer them. While there are lines and spaces for written answers for many questions, parents might have younger children answer some of these orally. You might want to have children keep their activity pages in their own binder as they complete them.
You might choose the 4-day course if you have any concerns about being overwhelmed even if you can teach five days per week. If you choose the 5-day course, remember that you can skip activities if you wish.
Experiments are used for hands-on botany study over either a nine- or ten-week period in the last part of the course. The authors of this course didn’t find great informational books that included equally compelling experiments on all topics, so they chose to present experiments as a major component of botany study rather than coordinating a wider range of experiments to fit with reading on other topics.
Experiments perform two important roles. They teach botany information, and they also introduce students to the scientific method. The TOPS books used for the experiments do an outstanding job of teaching through experimentation in a way that students will likely enjoy. The Discover and Do Level 3 DVD shows the experiments being performed, but you can choose whether to watch the pertinent track either before or after you attempt the experiment with your child.
You can purchase the kit of supplies designed for this course, but items in the kit shouldn’t be that hard to collect on your own. Among items in the kit are index cards, radish seeds, potting soil, plastic cups with lids, portion cups, popcorn kernels, a magnifying glass, straws, pinto beans, wheat kernels, and lentils. Whether or not you purchase the kit, you still need to provide other resources on your own such as a D battery, a ruler, plastic food wrap, vinegar, an empty cardboard milk container, wide-mouth jars, petroleum jelly, leaf samples, and blue food coloring.
Science D does a great job of combining interesting books, videos, Internet content, and activities in a very manageable way. Students learn science in ways that are memorable while student activity sheets provide a more traditional way to reinforce knowledge and provide tangible evidence of learning. This combination makes it easy for parents to teach science well without a lot of preparation and planning on their part.