Sunday, June 1, 2014

{Resource Review} Learning with Sassafras Science

This spring, while looking up "living science books", I came across the Sassafrass Twins Science books. The books are adventure novels that explore different areas of science. Currently the authors have published Zoology and Anatomy, and Botany is due out this summer. The authors plan to publish eight volumes in total, with subjects ranging from geoscience to physics. The Sassafras Science website offers optional activity guides, lapbooking guides and logbooks that can be used with the novels to fit your family's needs/learning styles. Delaney's favorite way to learn anything is through a good story, and this looked interesting. I purchased the first volume, Zoology, and the activity guide, and our Sassafras adventure began.

The activity guide is an excellent resource. It offers science experiments, lists of related living books, encyclopedia readings, sample lesson plans and many other helpful notes. I started out with lesson plans, looked up related art activities on the web, and started a Pinterest page to save it all. I decided to try some low-key lapbooking-style pages with the girls, and see if their interest levels would maintain that method of learning.


The girls and I began reading the book together. I enjoy this approach to learning also, snuggled up on the couch in our pajamas. What could be better? Zoology introduced us to the Sassafras Twins, who have to spend the summer with their scientist uncle because they have failed science in school. The plan is for Uncle Cecil to catch them up to speed on their science knowledge, and perhaps teach them to enjoy science along the way. They quickly find that their summer will be filled with lots of unconventional traveling, adventure, and much learning about animals from various continents.

First, we read a section of the book, and looked up the focus animal in our encyclopedia. (We use the DK Encyclopedia of Animals, and the activity book offers page reference numbers for our convenience.) Then, we relocated to the table where the kids could draw a picture of the animal, make an art project if they wanted to, and write down at least three things they learned or found interesting about the animal. Delaney was able to do this by herself. Sophie wrote the name of the animal, dictated the animal details to me, then we "read" it together.

One of our early lessons...the mighty lion...
by Sophie
by Delaney
 The cheetah...

We have some white masks in our craft drawer that a friend gave us. The girls decided to make some cheetah masks...
We read about giraffes...
And the girls made a cute little giraffe craft from DLTK...
The camel...
The Sassafras twins travel to many different countries. I printed a map for each continent, and Delaney found the country on the map and colored it in. Then, we looked on our larger world map, and she found the country there also.

By this time, we were about four chapters in, and the story was getting exciting. Delaney said she'd rather not pause to complete our journal pages and do the art, she just wanted to find out what was going to happen next, and who is the man with no eyebrows??

I have continued to read the book to the girls, sometimes during the day, sometimes again at night for their bedtime story. We are currently close to the end of chapter 11, learning about Australia and koalas.  The more structured side of things has been put aside, but we still enjoy looking up the animals in the encyclopedia, and often Delaney will bring me a Magic Tree House research book that gives a lot more detail about an animal or a region, and we learn a lot that way too. (I say "we" because she teaches me as many animal facts as I teach her geography facts!)

As we used written work less and less, and the book became our story time, I had an internal battle about the journals. My former teacher brain asked, Should I be reading more slowly, making them write more? My homeschool brain said, No, let them enjoy the story, don't take away the will all come together.

And sure enough, it has.

Delaney found a caterpillar in the backyard and wanted to keep it. I told her about a book I read recently, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly (highly recommend!), and how Callie kept a caterpillar and recorded its growth and metamorphosis. Delaney decided to do the same.

We found a jar, added some fresh leaves, and Dad popped some holes in the lid.

Delaney looked up "caterpillar" in the encyclopedia, and started a journal filled with all of the information she had gathered.

She was very excited to read it to us.
Currently, the little guy/girl is looking really he about to form a chrysalis? Is he dying? We just don't know. But Delaney will write it down in her journal!

From a literary point of view, the story does have some big plot holes that might frustrate an older reader who has higher expectations of a story. Our copy has several typos, which can drive me a little crazy as I read. These issues are rather minor in our household for now. The story holds Delaney's attention, and has been a fun introduction to animal science for Sophie. The books are reasonably priced, and activities to supplement the chapters are easy to find online, or in the activity guide. We will finish Volume One soon, and most likely order the second volume, Anatomy, which Delaney is extremely excited about.

But for now, we have to go find out if Tracy makes it out of China safely, and why the man with no eyebrows is after them!

1 comment:

I'd love to hear your thoughts, opinions and ideas!


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