Monday, May 18, 2009

TOPS Green Thumbs: Corn and Beans

Until now, Emily's science education has consisted of reading "real books," including Magic School Bus, Let's Read and Find Out Science, etc and doing occasional experiments and projects. She enjoys science, but we have never tackled anything very "meaty." Most projects have been completed in an afternoon. A few weeks ago, we started doing TOPS Learning Systems Green Thumbs: Corn and Beans. This is part of TOPS' Activity Sheet Series. This particular volume is for grades 3-10, so Emily is at the low end of the grade range. This five-week long unit is self-directed and includes labs and journaling assignments every day. I have to say that I am highly impressed with this volume! The first few days were spent making lab equipment--a balance created from a can, a clothespin, a straw and paper "masses," a pole planter, and a plant growing tray. She spent hours just playing with the balance (which works surprisingly well) before she even started the experiments. She has grown bean and corn plants, weighed dry and soaked seeds, learned about the parts of the seed and the plant, measured and documented the daily growth of her plants and more. Any visitor to our home has been taken to her project, where she shows off her plants and homemade balance and explains the difference between monocots and dicots. Emily has been able to do this study with minimal help. I provide some supervision to make sure she is following the directions correctly and check over the answers and drawings in her journal. Her work is at a third grade level, of course, but she has learned a lot. An older student would be able to complete the projects with even more comprehension and more detailed answers and drawings. Emily is so proud of the journal she has created. This has been the favorite part of her day for the last 4 weeks! We will definitely be looking for more TOPS units for next year!

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