While other subjects in our curriculum are taught mostly through books, science uses wider range of media including magazines, videos and (starting in middle school) online courses in addition to books.
The video format is particularly well suited to learning science. Many science topics are best experienced visually, and today the internet offers hundreds of stunning documentaries on topics from human evolution to the exploration of Mars. Videos and online courses are more likely to contain up-to-date information than books. Finally, videos provide a break from reading in what is otherwise a very book-focused curriculum.
Many of the best children's magazines are science-focused, and we highly recommend subscribing to one or more throughout the elementary and middle grades. The priority in early science study is to encourage an interest in learning about the world, and there is nothing like receiving a personally addressed magazine in the mailbox each month to awaken the enthusiasm of most children. Ranger Rick Jr. and Ranger Rick are wonderful for younger children who like reading about animals, and Ask and Muse, which explore a variety of science topics, are excellent choices for upper elementary and middle grade students.
That said, we recommend including books in your child's science curriculum whenever the opportunity presents itself. The Magic School Bus series is a great way to introduce a variety of science topics to lower elementary grade students. Our curriculum also includes several entertaining graphic novel presentations of scientific subjects. Most libraries have well-stocked children's nonfiction shelves, and you should encourage your child to choose these as well as fiction books for independent reading.
Formal and informal study
In the elementary grades, science should consist of interest-led exploration rather than structured memorization of facts. Most elementary science textbooks are boring, and provide little knowledge beyond what can be gained more enjoyably through freely chosen books, science magazines and documentaries.
Starting in middle school, we incorporate formal science study via the free and high-quality Khan Academy science courses. These, along with plenty of interest-led exploration using science magazines and documentaries, will ensure that your child is well prepared for high school science.
Young children should engage in a variety of science-based activities as part of their play. These include planting a garden or terrarium, caring for a pet, and raising butterflies.
While formal lab activities are not necessary prior to high school, our curriculum does include a microscope exploration segment as part of middle school biology. Today's educational microscopes are more budget-friendly and powerful than ever before. Using a microscope to examine bugs, compare cell structures, and discover the incredible variety of microorganisms contained in a drop of pond water will provide hours of fascinating exploration to children and parents alike.