Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Middle School Introductory Chemistry Wrap-Up...

I remember all too well the struggle Angel had in Chemistry her 11th grade year. We were using Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemistry. A combination of understanding the Periodic Table, math equations, vocabulary, atomic and molecular structure proved to be too much information all at one time. As a result, I vowed to do things differently with my younger students. My aim was to introduce these ideas at an elementary level in order to build a base for upper level Chemistry.

In looking at a variety of resources, I knew I wanted to stick with living books. Ambleside Online offered some suggestions in their Year 6 and Year 7 Science selections, one of which I actually ended up using with Angel once we scrapped the Apologia text. She enjoyed it so I thought it would be a suitable book for our middle school introductory year, where we focused on the elements of the Periodic Table. This week, we wrapped up our Middle School Introductory Chemistry and I'd like to share a few things we used and what I learned.

First off, a confession, I never had Chemistry....ever! I managed to escape it in high school and it wasn't required in college so I didn't volunteer, ahem! One of the many advantages of home educating is the recovery of my own education. There's no better way to develop understanding, compassion, and a love of subject than to study it yourself. For this reason, I decided to include a Chemistry study in our Morning Time (MT). This allowed me the ability to participate and learn with the kids rather than try to find extra time to pre-read or study the subject independently.

For our Morning Time Introductory Chemistry study, I chose The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin D. Wiker and The Elements by Theodore Gray. Wiker's book gave a wonderful introduction to the Periodic Table and how it was discovered. We learned about many alchemists and scientists of the past. Gray's book gives an absolutely stunning look at each individual element. There's a two page spread for every element with photographs of the actual element as well as items made from the element. It's a beautiful book! (Side note - while reading The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly for history, I was making all kinds of connections and gaining ideas from reading The Mystery of the Periodic Table. Although it wasn't planned, the two books complimented each other.)

The Mystery of the Periodic Table has 18 chapters so I read aloud a different chapter every other week throughout our 36-week academic year. On the off week, we studied 1-3 elements from Gray's book, using a schedule I found through Ambleside Online. I then had the kids notebook a page about each element we studied. They also charted each element on a blank Periodic Table. I personally charted and notebooked on each element along side them, as well as taking a few notes on each chapter or Wiker's book.

Overall, we had a great study! I know I personally learned a good deal about the Periodic Table. My one regret is that we didn't read about and complete a notebooking page on each element, or, at least all the naturally occurring elements. Not to say that we couldn't go back and finish it at some point, but we most likely won't. When it's time for Levi to work through an Introductory Chemistry study, I will have him spend more time on each element. As noted above, Gray's book is extremely visually appealing. It's well laid out and notebooking through the elements was one of our favorite parts of the study. Riley agreed that we should have covered all of them. Here are some samples....

I gave a little preview of our MT study in a blog post back in October, of which you can find more sample notebooking pages. In addition, Riley also read The Wonder Book of Chemistry by Jean Henri Fabre independently. She's decided she's not crazy about Fabre, but she was able to add to the MT conversation, making wonderful connections along the way.

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