The God's Design Science series courses, now in their fourth editions, are an outstanding program for grades three through eight.
There are four groups of books within the series. There are three textbooks in each group with a teacher supplement for each text that includes teaching information, supply lists, and answer keys. You can also download free PDF files with all of the worksheets and tests.
Titles for each of the four groups are:
Life: The Human Body, The World of Plants, The World of Animals
Heaven and Earth: Our Planet Earth, Our Weather and Water, Our Universe
Chemistry and Ecology: Properties of Matter, Properties of Atoms and Molecules, Properties of Ecosystems
Physical World: Heat and Energy, Machines and Motion, Inventions and Technology
You can purchase the books individually, but it makes more sense to buy the sets for each group—the three texts plus the three teacher supplements—or a complete set of all of the books.
There are a number of features that set these books apart. First, the books are ungraded; the content is appropriate for grades three through eight. So you can teach your children together if they fit within this range of grade levels.
According to the authors, you might complete any of the groups of three texts in a single school year. With three books per group, you would complete three lessons per week, spending about 45 minutes per lesson with older students and less time with younger students.
The philosophical and theological information at the front of each of the teacher supplement books is critical for understanding the unique perspective and design of these textbooks; this information is a must-read for teachers. Downloadable PDF files have worksheets for some of the lessons—some are required as part of the activities. Many of these pages are data recording sheets or other means of recording observations. The quizzes for each unit and a final exam are also included among the downloadable PDF files.
Brief teaching instructions at the beginning of each textbook point out the icon coding system used to indicate lessons and activities targeted for younger and older students. Older students generally are given more information and more-challenging activities in addition to the activities completed by younger students.
The books in this series all reflect a Christian worldview, including a young-earth view of creation. Contrasts are made between evolution and creationist views when pertinent to the topic, especially in the texts related to life science and earth science.
Hands-on experiments and activities that are built into every lesson are worthwhile and relate well to the topics. The activities and experiments include step-by-step instructions and are designed to teach scientific method as children observe, record information, discuss, and form conclusions. Lists of supplies needed for each lesson are in the teacher supplement for each text. Supplies are generally not too difficult to obtain, although it does vary from book to book. The World of Plants requires things like yellow gelatin, bean seeds, flower bulbs, corn meal, dried moss, and bread slices—fairly easy items to find. Heat and Energy is a little more challenging, requiring items like copper wire, iron filings, steel BBs, a compass, and a magnifying glass. Even the chemistry books mostly use easily available items like ammonia and rubbing alcohol. Rarely, the supply list also mentions a reference book that you will need—such as a tree field guide to be used with The World of Plants.
Activities are followed by a “What did we learn?” section. These are just a few key questions for the teacher to ask to ensure that students understand the main points of the lesson. Suggested answers are provided in the teacher supplement.
Next is a Taking It Further section with questions that will help children extend their thinking to draw some conclusions or make additional connections or applications of what they have learned. Older student should then work on the “challenge” activity that might require additional reading, writing, or research.
Interesting biographical sketches of scientists and inventors plus articles on special topics such as chemotherapy, artificial islands, and rattlesnakes appear sporadically throughout each textbook.
At the end of each book is a unit final project. These projects often encompass many topics covered within various lessons, so you should check out the unit project when beginning the course and consider having your child start work on the project early in the school year. They can then work on the project whenever it seems appropriate.
Textbooks are printed in full-color with numerous, high-quality illustrations and excellent graphics. The icons and colored boxes highlight different portions of the lesson, making it easy to spot sections to be used with different grade levels.
The God's Design Science series is a practical choice for Christian homeschooling families as well as for classroom teachers in Christian schools. However, there are a few issues that you might want to consider as you use this series.
Textbooks are written to address a wide age span. Some sections of text are dense with new vocabulary. You might find that some children will have a hard time listening to and absorbing so much detail. Sometimes you will need to simplify lesson material so that students can grasp concepts.
As I read through some of the lessons, I thought that I, personally, would very likely use the experiments and activities as the basis from which I would present the lesson information rather than presenting information first. If younger children can see and touch things as they are learning they will be able to understand better than if they are listening to what (to them) sounds like abstract information. For example, in Our Planet Earth, a lesson on identifying different minerals includes experiments for children to identify four or five minerals themselves. I would have the minerals on hand and would talk about their different characteristics for identification while the children compared and tested the different samples. This might help solve the problem I mentioned regarding information overload.
Overall, I like this combination of information with experiments and activities plus questions to ensure understanding. The variety of activities effectively reaches children with different learning styles.