Stars, planets, moons, orbits, satellites, and oh, so much more! The updated Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition by Apologia Educational Ministries has provided fun, very interesting learning opportunities for our family and a greater appreciation of all that is observed in the skies, whether day or night.
It is always fun opening a box from Apologia and this time was no different. Except this time? It was better. The girls oohed and aahed over the beautiful, hard-backed text with full color photographs, drawings, and illustrations. The book was passed around and they took turns finding something beautiful to look at. The notebooking journals, too, brought exclamations of interest and joy.
Coupling stunning images with scientific information makes this text a beautiful work of art. It is well-written in language that is sufficiently detailed without being difficult to understand. The writing style makes it work equally well as a student-directed lesson or as a read-aloud family lesson. This is highly flexible so you can tailor it to fit your family’s needs.
The text contains 14 lessons and each lesson can be broken up into the number of days you need. Using the schedule in the notebooking journals, the lessons contain from four (4) to seven (7) days of assignments. We have found some of these to be a bit too long for our 2nd grader but they work just fine for our 5th and 7th graders using the program. The text is detailed enough to make it a good middle school course, especially when supplemented with additional reading assignments of your own choosing. (Miss E is checking out additional books from the library each week related to the current topic in astronomy.)
The topics covered are:
- What is Astronomy?
- The Sun
- The Moon
- Space Rocks
- Kuiper Belt and the Dwarf Planets
- Stars, Galaxies, and Space Travel
That is quite a lot of information and all of it is beautifully related to God’s design for life. The relationship is not a blatant one, in my opinion, but author Jeannie K. Fulbright does a masterful job of mentioning the relationship of God to each piece of his creation at just the right time to guide the student’s thoughts to why, how, or in what ways God’s design is perfect. An example of this is when the discussion of gravity is occurring and she directs the student to be thinking about just how perfectly the earth is situated to not be pulled into the sun, not be pushed away from the sun, and be exactly where it must be in order for life to exist.
Throughout, there are blue banners that are titled Think About This and blue boxes titled Wisdom From Above. In these, Fulbright is a bit more direct about connecting the topic at hand to the Bible and Christian faith. With a Bible verse and a thought, fact or quote, she directs the students to be thinking more deeply about the connections to God. I personally love these and the girls have really seemed to get a lot out of the connections that are pointed out.
Each lesson has a few experiments/explorations. We did several of the ones that included items we had right here at the house. We did not have to go buy anything in order to complete these. One had to do with creating a model of the solar system. Another dealt with the sun’s heat and rays so we melted chocolate. Making a sun viewer was also one that we were able to do with what we had. Each lesson has several of these types of directly related activities that strengthen the understanding of concepts within the lesson.
Something that is easy to miss but should not be is Apologia’s course website created to go along with this text. Using a password that is found in the front of the text, you can access this course website through their site. There you will find videos, articles, star charts, biographies, and so much more. (A number of the site links are broken but there is still more there than I can possibly absorb!)
The end of the text contains an appendix that has a couple of helpful resources. One is a listing by lesson of all materials needed for the experiments/explorations included in the text. There is also an answer key for the What Do You Remember? sections for each lesson.
Our schedule during this review period has been to do at least two days a week of the astronomy course. This is easy to do with the schedule that is set up in the front of the notebooking journals with check boxes next to each day’s activities. For both the teacher and self-guiding students, this is a fantastic help for “do the next thing.” It is all written out for you.
As you can see from the example of the schedule, there are a variety of activities for the students to do in the program: readings, activities (experiments/experiences), minibooks, coloring pages (jr. notebooking), science kit activities, puzzles/games, and writing opportunities. They are encouraged to do additional learning activities such as reading books related to the topic, watching educational videos, and taking field trips. (We reviewed Apologia’s Field Trip Journal last year and it would fit in well here.) Visit Apologia’s site for the astronomy course to download samples from the notebooking journals for more information.
The notebooking journals are a way for the students to use what they have learning in the readings and experiments/explorations from the text. The open-ended response pages allow the students to show off what touched them, what they remembered, what was interesting to them. I have found that these opportunities to share what they found important allows the girls to internalize much more of what they are experiencing. Even the minibooks, as a whole, do not have a lot of specifics to them other than the gist of the topic they are related to.
If you have a student who balks at writing, these might be a bit more difficult to use but they would work equally well with the student dictating orally and someone transcribing their words. We have done that with a couple of the pages where Miss J had so much she wanted to share that she couldn’t possibly get it all down on the page. Her mind was just moving too fast for her pencil.
The notebooking journal and the junior notebooking journal are very similar. The biggest difference between the two seems to be the lines are for writing. The junior notebooking journal has the three-part lines: solid bottom line, dotted center line, solid top line. This is great if you have a student who is struggling with penmanship or letter formation. The notebooking journal has single lines. The junior notebooking journal has coloring pages at the end of the lesson while the notebooking journal has a What Do You Remember? page. The journals have a Bible verse for copywork and contain both a print and a cursive example of the verse. The minibooks are the same for both and the activities seems to be the same. This makes it simple to use as a family course. At the same time, these are very easy to use for a self-directed student. So, adapt it to fit your family!
This was our least favorite part of this fantastic curriculum. The audio CD is an MP3 version of the text. It can only be read by a MP3 disc player, such as a computer. It is not downloadable and cannot be transferred from the disc to a portable player. The controls are simple to use and pop up on the computer screen, to be manipulated with the mouse.
This would be great for a student who struggles to read, doesn’t like to, or perhaps can’t for some reason (recovering from an illness comes to mind, here). It reads the text, just as it is in the book.
We thought this would be a great fit for our oldest who has recently enjoyed using audio CDs so she can listen, learn, and do something with her hands, such as cross-stitch. This was not a good fit for her. The reader’s voice is quite monotone. While easy to understand, it is not enjoyable and quickly became hard to follow. The lack of expression and enjoyment in the reader’s voice meant that it was difficult to maintain attention . This CD is not something I would recommend.
ONE MORE THING:
Apologia has recently released a kit to go along with the astronomy course. We did not receive the Astronomy 2nd Edition Science Kit as part of this review, though it would be quite an asset to this course. According to information available, there are additional experiments for the course included in the kit. I cannot speak to the contents of it but it looks like it might be pretty neat.
USING WITH OLDER STUDENTS:
We are currently using this course with our middle school/7th grade student. The text is detailed enough to make this appropriate for this age. The notebooking journals, however, are not a good fit. In order to show understanding and comprehension of what is read and the activities, Miss E is using notebooking pages to document her work. She uses the same reading schedule as her sisters and then prints a page to write about her understanding and interest. The activities are one of the areas where this is very good for her because she is understanding enough of the cause/effect that she is actually able to do a large portion of the explanation for her sisters. This allows her to fill her big sister role and act as a mentor while having to put her understanding into words that someone else can follow is a critical thinking aspect that she is really benefiting from.
Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition brings together the fascination of space and astronomy, clearly written instruction, and stunning photography and imagery then melds it with the understanding of God’s hand in all of His universe. If you are looking an easy-to-use, easy-to-implement program, this is definitely one to look at. With the pieces able to be purchased separately, you can get exactly what fits your family’s needs and your budget.
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