Friday, June 01, 2012

Biology Conundrum

I've been doing a lot of planning for this coming year's biology class, especially in the lab department, since I'll have to make a big order, plus tell Siri what she'll need to get over in Hawaii.  Also, I'm going to start teaching biology in August, so I can take the whole month of December off between Thanksgiving and New Year when I have the baby, so that's another reason to get a jump on the class.  It's such a relief to have already taught the junior high life science class, and to know exactly what I need to order!

So for the labs--I have 3 different options to choose from.  We're using the BJU biology book for our main text, and I aleady have the teacher manual, pus the lab teacher manual, for that.  Unfortunately, many of the labs are fairly similar to ones we did in life science, and they just didn't seem that exciting to me.  So on to option number 2.  We are going to use the DIVE biology cd to help me with the lecture load this year, so the kids will watch the appropriate lectures, and we will meet on Tuesday at our regular Rivendell for the lab, and then we'll meet again on Thursday for a little while so I can discuss things in more depth with them.  We are definitely planning on having them take the SAT II biology test, but depending on how I think things are going, probably they will also go ahead and take the AP exam.  So having another session each wekk will help me better prepare them for those exams.  The only tricky part is that the AP bio exam is being reworked for this year, so there aren't any old exams to use for practice.  Test prep books for the 2013 exam are being published in September, so at least we'll have that.

Anyway--the DIVE cd has labs on it that the kid can watch, complete with data, and they can fill in the lab reports in the workbook.  Some of the labs even fulfill AP lab requirements! But that's not really *doing* a lab, and doesn't give any good hands-on lab experience.  I was thrilled, however, when I realized that Home Training Tools has a lab kit specifically for DIVE biology!  And I was less-than-thrilled when I realized that it only includes for materials for about half the labs, and some of those are just the dissections.  Also, there is not a real lab "manual" with DIVE.  It lists materials, has places to write data, and asks good questions to help formulate conclusions, but there are not written-out procedures.  You are supposed to watch the lab on the cd and then do it yourself.  That would be really hard, especially with the added complication of skyping.  I would have had to watch all the labs and then manually type up procedures, and that just seemed like a tremendous added hassle.  So the DIVE labs weren't a good alternative, although I probably will have the boys watch the AP ones, just to gain the added knowledge.

That leaves a book I discovered through the Well-Trained Mind high school forum.  It's called the Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments, by Robert Bruce Thompson.  This book was just published in late April, but the author also has a book for chemistry (with almost the same title) that has gotten rave reviews, so I was pretty confidant this book would be exactly what I was looking for.  And it is!  The website even has a page which matches up the labs to the BJU chapters!  They sell a lab kit to go along with the book ($170), but we are not going to be doing all the labs, plus we already have a lot of glassware, goggles, etc.  I've gone through and made a list of what we need, and I've found those items on various scientific supply websites.  The labs all have clear, explicit instructions, and they look so interesting!    The author has a big emphasis on building stuff yourself, really DIY lab science, so that should be fun.  Definitely different from the BJU labs!  I'm excited about them, and I think the boys will enjoy them too.

We have our first Rivendell planning meeting soon.  Should be a fun, challenging year, as usual!


Anonymous said...

Can I send Samuel? What I would not do. . . :-) Wish we lived there, or better yet, you lived here. Blessings, Marie

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Thanks for the kind words. We're glad the book fits your needs. Good luck with your biology course.