Illustrations, hands-on experiments, and a colorful format should make Science: Order & Design appealing to seventh graders. The text often addresses students directly such as when it says, “As you eat and digest food, your digestive system acts mechanically and chemically upon the food to break it down into molecules that can be absorbed into the blood” (p. 85). While this approach is more often used with younger children, it still helps junior high students relate to the information.
Lessons are presented in 13 chapters that cover topics such as scientific classification, the scientific method, plants, the human body, health, creation science, evolution, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, invertebrates, the microscope, trees, forestry, ecology, and ecosystems.
Chapters are divided into sections, with each section focused on a narrower topic. At the end of each section are “Section Review” questions. These include four or more comprehension questions and, sometimes, one or more “Thought Provoker” questions. The thought questions sometimes just require lengthier answers, but some require students to synthesize the information they have read to come up with answers, such as with the question on page 45, “Would a coconut be likely to germinate on the shores of Alaska? Why or why not?”
At the end of each chapter is a Chapter Review that helps prepare students for the chapter test. They are given long lists of words and terms to define and phrases to identify (e.g., eleven systems of the human body or the parts of a tooth on page 115). The extensive glossary at the back of the book should be helpful for this. Questions in the Chapter Review are presented under the headings of Explain and Apply, but the questions don’t seem distinctly different in the two sections. The most thought-provoking questions seem to be in the fifth chapter which is about creation and evolution. It presents a strongly-creationist position and supports belief in a young earth. It has Chapter Review questions such as “Explain how specified complexity proves the existence of an intelligent Designer” and “Contrast the assumptions of materialism with what the Bible teaches” (p. 195).
You can purchase an answer key for the textbook that has only the answers for both section and chapter questions. Alternatively, you can purchase the two-volume teacher’s edition that has answer keys for the textbook along with teaching information and lesson plans. The teacher’s edition has reduced images of the student pages that are readable. These images are surrounded by the teaching information and answer keys. The teacher’s edition alerts you to the activities that will be done for each lesson, but they still make you go to the activities themselves to see what will be required. (I wish it had a list of required resources for the activities at the beginning of each chapter or else in one place for the entire course.) The teacher’s edition seems most useful as an answer key and for student assignments.
There are separate quiz and test books for this course, and there are separate answer keys for the quiz book and the test book.
Hands-On Activities and Call-Out Boxes
Almost every chapter has one or more hands-on activities. Some that are presented under the headings “Backyard Scientist” and “Nature Explorer” are outdoor observations or activities. “Science Investigation” and “Check It Out” are experiments, dissections, and other indoor activities. These generally can be done with household items, but you will sometimes need some other items such as a spring scale, a pocket or field microscope, and an insect collecting net.
There are a number of other special call-out boxes throughout the text. “Math Connections” show how math is used in specific scientific applications. “A Closer Look” features in-depth articles on narrow topics such as those on “Trees in the Desert” and “Thinking with Models.” Some Closer Looks have spiritual themes. “Creation Clip” articles show how creation continually provides evidence of a Creator.
Activity Book and STEM Project
The Science: Order & Design Activity Book has activity sheets for each chapter and instructions for a STEM project. The activity sheets include multiple-choice questions, crossword puzzles, word-search puzzles, images to label, columns to match, and choosing correct answers from a word bank.
The STEM project has students develop a design or an application, or else investigate a topic related to science technology, engineering, or math. Instructions are in both the student and teacher editions of the Activity Book. Students are supposed to create a logbook and write a paper about the project. It seems to me that the STEM project can be optional since the course has plenty of material without it. Note that A Beka's eighth-grade science course includes a similar STEM project, so you might choose to have students complete one in one year or the other.
This course should appeal especially to parents who want a science curriculum that supports a creationist point of view. I like the wide variety of activities and the fact that they should be fairly easy to use in homeschool settings. Those looking for a course that requires a full lab setup need to look elsewhere.