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Teaching Earth and Environmental Sciences for Homeschoolers

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 3/22/2014

Earth and Environmental Science sounds like an intimidating topic to teach but can be quite simple when you find the curriculum that works for you. Find tips for teaching different grades, when to teach this type of scientific course, resources and curriculum suggestions.

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    Earth and environmental sciences for homeschooling help increase your student's knowledge of the world. Earth and environmental science focuses upon studying geology, weather, ecology, oceanography, etc. When adding earth science for homeschoolers to your curriculum, there are a few considerations to make. First, what will your curriculum entail? Second, what will your curriculum choices include? Third, will you add experiments to the earth and environmental science for homeschooling, and if so, what kind of experiments should you add? Finally, how will the different levels of study for earth and environmental science differ from one another?

    A standard earth science curriculum covers some, or all, of the following topics:

    • Geology - the study of the earth's makeup itself, including rocks, the earth's structure, minerals and crystals, and the history of the earth
    • Geophysics - the study of the earth's movements including volcanic activity, the tectonic plates, and earthquakes
    • Meteorology - the study of weather on earth
    • Oceanography - the study of the earth's oceans

    Standard environmental science curriculum covers some or all of the following topics:

    • Ecology - the relationship between man's impact on the world and the natural world
    • Environmental Chemistry - the chemical makeup of environments and how environments react to changes
    • Atmospheric Science - the study of the impact of various chemical factors on the atmosphere

    Ideally, you will hit on earth and environmental science at least once during each stage of homeschooling: once during the elementary years, once during the middle-school years and once during the high school years. Each time you cover the topic, the focus of the study will change. Elementary student's focus on facts, middle-school students focus on organizing facts, and high school students focus on assimilating their knowledge and applying it through researching topics in-depth.

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    For Elementary Students

    When it comes to introducing earth and environmental science to elementary students, it's important to look for curriculum materials that both introduce facts to these young students and that feature fun experiments that make learning about these science topics fun. While you can purchase a textbook that includes a multitude of scientific topics under one cover, it is much more enriching to spend a year on earth and environmental science while constructing a curriculum of your own.Earth by Seymour Simon 

    One fun series of books for this age group is the Seymour Simon Earth Science series including Weather, Lightning, Tornadoes, etc. These books can be found at many libraries or inexpensively purchased through Amazon to become part of your curriculum collection.

    Another book you can use for earth science is The Usborne Internet-Linked First Encyclopedia of Our World. Not only will students be able to read about Earth Science, but they will also be able to engage themselves in internet activities that will enrich that experience.

    For environmental science, consider the Young Discoverers Science Series including Pollution and Waste and Garbage and Recycling amongst the available titles. These books contain text and experiments that young students can carry out.

    A final option for students in the elementary years is R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey: Earth & Space (Level One); this program features experiment-based learning of environmental and earth science. It is an outstanding secular option for homeschooling families.

    Science kits for this age group include All About Rocks Mini-Lab, Toysmith Volcano Making Lab, and Smart Box Weather Science. While you can perform some experiments on your own as demonstrations for students in this group, it's important to choose experiments that the student can be involved in as well. Keep a journal of the topics that were covered, and the experiments performed by having students give brief narrations of what was read or discovered.

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    Middle School Students

    In the middle school years, students will begin to organize the information they are assimilating from earth/environmental science for homeschoolers. Make sure your middle school level student has many resources on which to draw information from, keeps a science journal, and actively engages herself in diagramming scientific concepts. By engaging in these activities, they will help to solidify her understanding of the concepts, and these activities will help her to fully understand connected concepts. There are many great curriculum resources for middle school earth and environmental science for homeschooling.

    While not a text in itself, Instructional Fair's Earth Science has more than one hundred worksheets relating to earth science topics. Many of these worksheets have diagrams that students can color and label to solidify important concepts including the structure of Earth Science Reproducible Activities by Vriesenga volcanoes and the earth's structure.

    The Earth Science Book: Activities for Kids can be used in conjunction with another curriculum resource such as How the Earth Works to provide both instruction and experiments in earth science.

    An outstanding resource for environmental science for kids in this age group is 50 Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. You can combine this resource with 365 Ways to Live Green and the Everything Kids Environment Book and achieve a comprehensive earth/environmental science for homeschoolers curriculum.

    When it comes to science kits for this age group, nothing beats Thames and Kosmos' kits. Kits you should invest in include: NG, Rocks, and Minerals Kit, the Sustainable Earth Lab, Earthquakes and Volcanoes, and the Powerhouse Green Essentials Kits. Not only will these kits include almost everything you need for experiments, but they also include a very detailed and informative experiment guide providing lessons on topics covered within the kits.

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    High School Students

    At this stage, not only should you expect your high school-level earth and environmental science student to be assimilating information into his already expansive knowledge of science and the world around him, but you should also expect the student to write up experiments and reports that explain why he believes things work the way they do, his beliefs about prominent theories involved in earth and environmental science, and ways that various theories have impacted science and other subjects at least once a week.

    As with other levels, there is a variety of curriculum resources for students to choose from. No matter what curriculum you choose, you should supplement the curriculum with primary source reading material at this stage. Students should be familiar with both sides of the global warming debate, differing opinions on environmental science and the importance (or non-importance) of activism, and reasons for going green. Additionally, advanced students should practice reading journal articles in the areas of earth science they are currently studying. Many libraries have subscriptions to JStor, an electronic archive of journal articles that allows scholars to access articles when needed. The high school level student can then base papers on readings for these topics.

    You will also want earth science and environmental science textbooks for your student. Earth Science Made Simple by E. F. Albin, Amsco's Earth Science Worktext, and Holt Environmental Science are all fine choices for these studies.

    Finally, make sure you have plenty of science lab materials on hand. Once again, you can look to Science Home Tools as a viable option for obtaining your earth and environmental science for homeschooling materials.

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    Wise, J. and Bauer, S. W. (2002) The Well-Trained Mind.

    "Earth Environmental Science" NC Standard Course of Study

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