Tuesday, August 06, 2013

A History of Science: A History based Approach to Scientific Principles with modern application

Last year we completed the Beautiful Feet History of Science program and we loved it. Unfortunately, they do not have an intermediate pack for this course, so I was stuck either buying some dumb textbook for my middle schoolers this year or designing my own history of science. After looking over the possibilities, I realized that designing a course really wouldn't be all that much effort. There were lots of science books on my wishlists that would work perfectly and a little searching turned up more. Furthermore, I found many of them lent themselves to workbooks or activities with something of a modern application. This, I thought, would both supply for the lack of labs in my program and also help show a kind of unity between historical and modern science.

The following is a suggested course outline. It is literature based and it is history based. The literature is chosen for its appeal and for the quality of information. The historical elements were chosen on account of the influence of the ideas and discoveries. We will document these, along with the historic persons in our own history timeline as we read about them. I have not written up a study guide or any discussion questions yet, or even every unit we will cover in every book. I expect to work most of that out with my week to week planning throughout the year.

We will read and discuss the wonderful "The Mystery of the Periodic Table" by Benjamin Wiker. To go along with it, we'll study this eye candy: "The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe."

130-210 AD
We will read "Galen and the Gateway to Medicine" by Jeanne Bendick and complete the Dover "Human Anatomy Coloring Book."

We will read "Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci" He was a mathematician, of course, but the sequence he discovered is found everywhere in nature from the stars to the tides, from weather patterns to buttercups. It is found so often that some have joked that God is a mathematician, which, of course, He is. So we'll look and see some examples of this number sequence in nature: "Fascinating Fibonaccis: Mystery and Magic in Numbers" and "Fibonacci Fun: Fascinating Activities with Intriguing Numbers."  We'll also check the library for "Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature" and while this book is written for younger audiences, it is beautiful and surprisingly informative. It explains what might be considered the purpose and function of spirals in nature; their beauty, strength, and economy to name a few. The book is called "Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature." 

Also, we'll read a few select chapters from Olsen's "The Golden Section:Nature's Greatest Secret"

Next, we'll read a biography of the Swedish botanist Carl Linneaus, "Carl Linnaeus: Father of Classification" Then we'll look at how scientists classify new species discovered in the modern age using Linnaeus' system. Also, we'll consider some animals that defy classification and how scientists handle that particular difficulty in "Classification of Animals."

"Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas" is what I've settled on. I say "settled" because I would have preferred a more reliable source for biography like Landmark or Childhood of Famous World Figures series. Why didn't Jeanne Bendick write a book about Newton?? Anyway, the book looks interesting and comprehensive and includes 21 activities. I doubt we'll do them all. One reviewer says that the author briefly mentions toward the end that some moderns think that some of Newtons friendships might have been homosexual in nature. We'll skip that part.

We'll read and discuss "Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas" To go along with it, we'll read most of the "Kingfisher Knowledge: Genes and DNA" I haven't decided which chapters we will do and which we will leave out just yet, but I expect lively discussions on nature vs. nurture, evolution, and some of the ethical questions surrounding genetic engineering.

Also, we will cover Darwin using "Island: A Story of the Galapagos"

Scientific Method
We'll read and discuss "Fabre's Book of Insects" while coloring in Dovers "Book of Insects" Then taking a clue from Fabre's observation, we'll attempt our own with the help of this beautiful book, "Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You."

I hope this information has been helpful to some. Please email me any ideas or suggestions you might have to improve this History of science course. Thank you and happy planning!

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