Monday, January 13, 2014

Update on using Biology 101

We are thrilled with our choice of Biology 101 for this year.  We of course modified the instructions for using as a high school curricula but are thrilled with the results using Biology 101 at the center of our course.  Even my daughter Ariel who is not really a "science kid" might admit that it's not so bad.  I'm so glad I switched methods from what I did with my older boys!

We're using Biology 101 put out by Westfield Studios .  They graciously allowed us to use their product in our co-op setting.  This curricula lends itself fabulously to the style of learning we've been doing all along rather than being forced at the high school level to switch to a more true "textbook" approach.

What style have we been using all along you might ask?  Well, I'm not sure I can categorize it precisely but I can say for sure it is not a traditional textbook style where you read and take multiple choice tests.  Generally we keep notebooks which contain any given number of things depending on the subject.  They often include timelines, notes, book reports, copies of articles, maps etc...  Basically anything we've found of interest to add to our study.  We value "hands-on" learning and whenever we can do "application type learning".  This could mean field trips, competitions, arts/crafts type projects, collections, etc... 
Ariel cutting into her perch

You could call it Notebooking but our notebooks are not as elaborate as some.  You could call if Eclectic but we're also not as eclectic as some as we do generally have a plan and follow a book/guide.  It works for us and I've been so pleased with the results!

So for our science, here is the modified syllabus I came up with.  Along with we the DVD curriculum and guide to print out we added a "color book" which gives up lots more technical information that I thought might have been a bit lacking.  It really gives us more than we need but gives the "beef up" in that area I was hoping for.  We also added a few labs to give  that hands on thing and of course we add reports and other books to get the students digging in and finding interesting things on their own!  (Learning at its best in my opinion!) 
Lexie and fellow student Jessie making their cut

I just loved last week when my girls were trying to "narrow" down which 3-4 aquatic animals they wanted to bring to share with the class.  They ended up telling me all about them to try and make the decision on which they should share.  I just sat there thinking , "Wow, they are getting so much out of this and don't even realize it, that is learning at its finest!"  I love it when that happens.  At our house that never happens over multiple choice tests.

For the co-op I created a "check list" for each unit so that moms can check off (and grade if they like) the sections that students should have in their notebooks.  The bulk of the grade in my opinion should be that they completed the work.  From there you can give points on neatness, creativity and "extra" things they added on their own.  I do grade the reports and the curriculum from Westfield Studios has a small quiz from each unit that  I also grade.

They also offer a Chemistry 101 course.  Will we doing it next year?  No, I don't think so but possibly the year after.  The girls already had next years courses picked out.  Lexie will be doing a Pre-Med and Ariel a Classical Astronomy, at least that is the current plan.  We'll see what gets bought this convention season.  Stay tuned....

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