Do you wonder if elementary age kids can really learn chemistry? Are you afraid to teach your children chemistry because you weren’t so good at it? My answers to both of these questions were “yes” before starting our chemistry curriculum this year.
I had one bad experience with chemistry in middle school and thought I would never be able to understand it. I avoided it in high school and college and got through life just fine. That is, until recently when I wanted to know more about natural ways to support our family’s health and I ran right into…chemistry.
So I decided this school year, we would learn chemistry as our science curriculum in our homeschool. Kids learn, mom learns and everyone becomes more knowledgeable! But, I knew we were going to need an actual curriculum if we were going to pull this off.
In the past, I had just pulled science lessons together based upon what the boys were interested in. We spent all of last year learning about biomes and animals and plants and prior to that we studied insects and physics and light and sound. But there was no way I was comfortable with piecing together chemistry lessons.
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So I asked in a homeschool group on facebook what the favorite science curricula were and the R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey kept popping up. Moms know best and it was relatively inexpensive compared to some other science curricula out there so we went for it. And we are happy we did!
The lessons are short and fun, yet teach deep enough for the 2nd-5th grade group. There are lots of fun, hands on experiments, which the boys love, although they are slightly disappointed they have not gotten to blow anything up, yet! I know my guys benefit from as many hands-on activities as possible and need some pre-teaching and/or review of concepts taught. So, I decided to create two sets of printables and invest in a molecule building kit to accompany our curriculum.
Vocabulary Concept of the Day Cards
The first printable is Vocabulary Concept of the Day Cards aka calendar cards, which we used all last year for teaching and reviewing biome vocabulary. My youngest loves to learn a new card each day and was kind of upset that we did not have calendar cards this summer. (Mom needs a break!) So I knew that I needed to get some calendar cards going once our school year was back in session.
They are actually great to teach vocabulary before it is encountered in the lessons or experiments and/or to review concepts once they are taught. They also serve as a great reference (or cheat sheet as the boys like to call it) when they need to remind themselves what a word means. Big Fish pulled a whole bunch of them out today while he worked through a chemistry crossword!
So, I went ahead and started a set of chemistry calendar cards that are meant to accompany any chemistry curriculum that you may use. Each card contains one concept or vocabulary word such as “chemist”, “nucleus”, or “electric charge”.
The first month starts with basic vocabulary such as atom, proton, energy level, electric charge and mass. The end of month one, month two, and beginning of month three focus on better known elements such as hydrogen, carbon, gold, and their chemical families. Month three then continues with types of bonds and molecular formulas and examples of common chemical molecules. Month four covers states of matter, chemical reactions, and acids and bases. There are a total of 30 cards for each month.
Parts of An Atom for Hands On Building
This leads me to the second printable, which is a FREEBIE and can be downloaded below. It is also included in the Vocabulary Concept of the Day Cards.
This printable contains 3 energy levels as well as protons, neutrons, and electrons to cut out and then use each day to build the element of the day that is introduced on the calendar card. Instructions and manipulatives to build the first 18 elements are included. (Note: After these first 18, the placement of the electrons into energy levels gets tricky so we stopped here to keep it at an elementary age level.)
This has allowed us to review the concepts of protons, neutrons, electrons, and energy levels, including how many electrons can fit in a given energy level, over and over again so that the boys fully understood these concepts by the time they were done. They enjoy it because they are “building” something and we have been able to work a lot of math facts into the activity as well!
Molecular Model Kit
Once we finished studying the elements, we moved on to studying how molecules are built. I wanted a hands-on way for the boys to learn about this. You can do this with playdough and toothpicks, but I decided to go ahead and buy a molecular model kit. The atoms in the kit each have a specific number of holes based upon how they bind with other atoms so that made it a little more error proof rather than using playdough and toothpicks. We used this kit during month three of the vocabulary concept of the day cards (above) to build various models and we also have used it during our lessons from the R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Chemistry book to model what we are learning.
Marie Curie Biography
Reading a biography about Marie Curie and learning about the two elements she discovered is a great side unit to any chemistry study. We enjoyed the Who Was Marie Curie? book as this is our favorite series of biographies.
Cooking with Chemistry
Another hands-on way to learn chemistry is through cooking! The Kitchen Science Lab for Kids Edible Edition is the perfect way to do this! It pairs chemistry lessons with types of food and some recipes!
I am so glad we decided to learn chemistry together this year and am looking forward to all of our future lessons. Have you used any other resources to study chemistry? Please share with the rest of us by leaving a comment below!
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