Science is not my strongest subject and, I'm sorry to admit, that I don't enjoy it any more as an adult than I did as a kid -- with one exception. I love Earth Science! Anything that has to do with geology, natural disasters, plate tectonics, etc. is fascinating to me. I think it is probably because of my love of history that I love Earth Science so much: it is largely a study of the history of the Earth.
Imagine my delight, then, when we were provided a copy of AIMS Education Foundation's Earth Book: Hydropshere, Geosphere, Atmosphere, and Their Interactions. This hefty book consists of 446 pages of hands-on, activity-heavy Earth Science. The book is organized into the sections indicated in the subtitle, meaning that first students study water, then the layers of the Earth, then the atmosphere, and finally the way in which all of these elements work together. In addition to the brief readings, there are 48 activities to reinforce what students are learning. One of the nicest features of this book is the inclusion of a CD containing all of these activities - think of it as student pages. Thus, when students need to do an experiment or activity, your book is safe from being cut, mutilated, written in, or having its spine bent (a huge plus for someone as OCD as I!). You simply print out the relevant pages.
AIMS Education Foundation really does the best job summarizing the course when it writes:
This is the ultimate in middle-school supplements for hands-on Earth Science material! Content-rich investigations dig into the hydrosphere, geosphere, atmosphere, and their interactions with one another. Everything from fault lines to weather fronts is explored.
As indicated, Earth Book is recommended for grades 6-9. At this level, students can pretty much treat this as a self-directed course. I did use Earth Book with my younger children, though, and at 6 and 8, they got a lot out of the activities and lessons. In fact, my 8th grader ended up basically teaching the lessons to my younger kids -- another huge point in this book's favor! Also, for parents who have reason to worry about state standards, rest assured that this book is correlated to those standards!
The best thing about Earth Book (apart from its fascinating subject matter and great activities) is its accessibility to its targeted age bracket. While the book is in black and white, it is filled with drawings and has a nice big typeface. Nothing about it says "science book," which is a huge bonus for parents whose children fear the subject.
Earth Book is available from AIMS Education Foundation, and retails for $49.95. You have the option of receiving a hard copy of the book or a downloadable pdf. The price is the same, so it comes down to personal preference. If you're not sure if Earth Book is for you, be sure to check out the generous 30 page sample here. The sample is enough to let you know whether or not Earth Book is right for your child. If not, AIMS has many, many other math and science activity books from which to choose. You're sure to find something right for your children.
My family loved Earth Book; in fact, we are definitely going to keep using it this year. To find out what others thought, visit the Crew blog!