(Note: The third editions of this series were reviewed for inclusion in 102 Top Picks. New fourth editions that are now available for grades two through six are very similar in content.)
If you want a traditional style textbook for science in the elementary grades, the BJU Press Science series for grades one through six is one of the better choices. Recognizing that children have different learning styles, they have incorporated activities to suit different learners.
The fourth editions of these courses have even greater emphasis on developing a biblical worldview from a fundamentalist perspective in regard to science. This is evident through introductory pages as well as material throughout the courses. In addition, worldview questions show up in lessons and activity pages.
Each grade level has a homeschool subject kit that includes the student text, teacher's edition, an activity manual, tests, and an answer key for the tests. You need all components unless you choose not to test your children. You will still need to gather resources for experiments and activities.
Both textbooks and activity manuals for each course are attractively printed in full color with plenty of illustrations. BJU Press sells the same editions to both schools and home educators, so you will sometimes have to adapt activities written for class groups.
Scientific thinking is heavily stressed with the scientific method introduced at first grade level. Scriptural principles are incorporated with science applications in the curriculum. The fourth editions of these texts have an increased emphasis on helping children develop a Christian worldview.
The teacher's editions are well organized and easy to use. All of them include a Teacher’s Toolkit CD-ROM that will run on either Windows or Mac systems. Teacher's Toolkits include answer keys for the activity manual, reproducible pages, rubrics for grading activities, instructional aids, extensive science fair information, and similar resources—some of which are optional. However, you should explore the CD-ROM so that you are aware of resources that you want to use.
Chapters in the textbooks each have a number of lessons and conclude with a review lesson to reinforce concepts taught throughout that chapter. Chapters are also color coded so you can easily tell which lessons are included within a chapter or unit in both the text and activity manual.
Activities are at the heart of many lessons, especially at the early grade levels. Most activities are outlined in the teacher’s editions but data recording and some activities are done from the activity manual. That means these courses need to be taught—you cannot just hand your child the text to use independently. Resources needed for each course are listed chapter-by-chapter at the back of each teacher's edition as well as on the Teacher's Toolkit CD-ROM. Lists are quite lengthy, so you will want to start gathering things well ahead of when you will need them. Many resources are household items. Others such as a Celsius thermometer, metric measuring cups, and gumballs (examples from the third grade list) might be unusual. As you move up to fifth and sixth grade, more specialized scientific equipment is used, items such as a microscope, insulators, iron filings, pH indicator paper, a pH meter, and a voltmeter which are among items listed for the sixth grade course. BJU Press does not sell lab kits for these courses, but note in the pricing section that there are lab kits from other sources that are available for each course that might be well worth the cost for the time they will save.
Activity Manuals have full-color pages with graphic organizers, pages for recording data or observations, questions to answer, occasional crossword puzzles, writing activities, and "Study Guide" exercises to review key ideas from each chapter.
These courses require lesson preparation and presentation time, but if you follow the lesson plans in the manuals, I expect that you and your children will find the courses very engaging.
While courses are written for grades one through six, you can generally use one course for children who are one or two grade levels apart with a little adaptation to suit their abilities. (It will be most challenging to do this for first and second graders who are still developing reading and writing skills.) Courses are challenging enough that when you stretch to cover a range of grade levels, you should probably choose a grade level below that of your oldest student.
Recorded videos of a teacher presenting each course are also available through BJU Press' Distance Learning Online (DLO) option.
Grade 1 kit
The text for first grade covers the following topics on an introductory level: senses, weather, seasons, health and safety, wild and tame animals, matter, sound, plants, forces, and the sun, moon, and stars. The Teacher’s Toolkit CD-ROM includes sound files that are used with some lessons.
Grade 2 kit
Topics taught in second grade include the nature of science and basic science methodology, living things, plants, fossils, earth, natural resources, how the earth moves, light, matter and how it changes, movement, and the human body.
Grade 3 kit
Topics at this level include cold-blooded and warm-blooded animals, plants, ecosystems, matter, sound, energy in motion, soil, rocks, minerals, weather, the solar system, and the human body.
Grade 4 kit
At this level, students study living things, insects, spiders, forces and machines, electricity and magnetism, light, the moon, water and oceans, weathering and erosion, the earth’s resources, digestion, and bones and muscle.
Grade 5 kit
Topics studied in fifth grade are minerals and rocks, fossils and dinosaurs, matter, energy and heat, weather, biomes, ecosystems, sound, light, the respiratory and circulatory systems.
Grade 6 kit
Sixth graders study earthquakes and volcanoes, weather and erosion, natural resources, cells and classification, animal classification, plant classification, atoms and molecules, electricity and magnetism, motion and machines, the stars, the solar system, plant and animal reproduction, heredity and genetics, and the nervous and immune systems.