Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three. Confucius

03 June 2017


Hi Everyone,

In this post I will address how we cover Science in our learning these days. Our approach has remained fairly steady since I wrote about science a few years ago. We are still utilizing the CSIRO Double Helix magazines as a springboard for musing and discussions. These magazines are relevant, current, and have regular competitions, activities, world news, question and answer sections, and interesting articles. At about $40 annually for a bi-monthly publication delivered to your home, we find it a worthwhile expense.

In addition to the Double Helix there are a myriad of science programs and centres running throughout Australia, often through universities, if you google you will probably find a club near(ish) you, particularly if you live in an urban area, and they are usually very happy to include homeschoolers individually or as a group. Cost is generally an annual subscription, and then a minimal charge per hands on activity.

In South Australia we have Bright Sparks, run through the Adelaide University, and most capital cities have an equivalent. Bright Sparks meet up every couple of weeks minimum and deal with chemistry, biology and general science in a hands on, engaging way.

In conjunction with Double Helix, Jay and Freida do Stemsel science classes. Stemsel stands for Science Technology Engineering Mathematics Social Enterprise Learning. Fundamentally established as a charitable organisation to enable people to become more employable all over the world and consequently make a difference, Stemsel now educates many children around the world in practical and thinking skills, for a relatively low cost to the pupils. I love this philosophy, but really my kids just love the hands on, respectful teaching style of their Stemsel teacher. There are cool things that are taught across the board, for example the children programmed and mounted a light sequencing board and fridge alarm (see illustration) which was the first formal teaching experience Freida has had of engineering, and she loved it. I think it gave her a different perception of her abilities and challenges stereotypes/preconceptions around what girls are capable of in a scientific environment.
Fridge alarm design and computer program

If we are looking for a bit of extra guidance, we have the R.I.C. Publications Australian Curriculum Science books to use as a resource. These books suggest various activities/experiments, discussions and offer condensed text on relevant topics which I use to quickly and effectively introduce a concept which we then discuss and address depending on learning styles, and our mood on the day.

For example, we recently looked at the structure and adaptablity of plants to region/usage and human requirements. This led to a recommendation to watch a Catalyst episode on GM in wheat and springboarded into a valuable discussion on the ethics of genetically modified food, the meat industry, seed producers, chemicals etc. I do not follow the lessons exactly but we loosely follow the topics through in the order presented in the book.

Our worm farm template from Adobe Worm Loos
Our beautiful red worms
As well as these activities, the kids will often cook, garden and build (chemistry, physics, biology) as well as dragging out kitchen ingredients to make some wild combination of stuff to just see what happens, which is cool too. Scouts and a generally active lifestyle teach a lot of physics: how to capsize a boat and right it, how to balance on a rope ladder across a river; hiking and camping teach biology/food and nutrition, sustainability etc.

A lot of this incidental learning is cross-curriculum (meaning it will cover several learning areas at once)... real life does that beautifully :)

A moment of quiet contemplation in the middle of a biology lesson
On top of the world

Talk Soon, Cynthia x