February 2, 2010

Mini Unit Study - The Human Body

Our most recent science mini unit study was the human body.

Books we used (in alphabetical order):

Big Book About the Human Body by Joe Kaufman - This book has short, simple but not dumbed down explanations. It has excellent illustrations. It really has a lot of information and detail, but we never felt bogged down. There are even a few suggestions on experiments to do. The first few pages are about babies and how they uh, get here. There are 4 small pictures of the equipment used, and one short paragraph on how it happens. We've sort of skipped over that part because I'm not ready to have that talk, especially not with all of them together. We may use that section later though because it's short, scientific and doesn't really go into detail like other books I've read. This will be my main book when we study the body again, unless of course I find something better! You can only find this book used, but I think it well worth the effort.

Blood and Guts by Linda Allison - We used a few of the ideas/experiments here, but definitely not all. We enjoyed what we did do. I liked how there were explanations as to why things worked the way they did. I found that most of the books that we read had similar ideas at the back so we didn't use this as much as I thought we would.

The Body Book by Donald Silver - Very similar to the Easy Make and Learn book, only for older kids. We used a few projects from this book and they are very well done (a bit time-consuming to photocopy, cut out and put together) but worth it. The kids either played with their creations, hung them on the walls or put them in their science books. Or all three. This would be a good choice if you have all older elementary/middle school kids, otherwise the Easy book is better for youngers. They have different models in each one though, so they do work well together without duplicating.

The Brain and Nervous System (Human Body) by Steve Parker - I didn't use this with the kids. It was more in-depth than I wanted and would have taken a long time to get through it. The pages have a lot of text and it's dense stuff so you could probably only read 2 pages at a time. There are good illustrations, but not as good as I've seen in other books. This would probably work well for middle school to junior high, but it is a bit dry.

The Circulatory System (True Books) by Darlene Stille - This was a good, basic covering of the circulatory system. The illustrations are very well done and were very helpful in visualizing how it all works. The text isn't overly engaging, but it does a good job explaining blood, the heart, etc. We were able to read it in one sitting. Until I find an utterly fascinating book on the circulatory system this one works just fine for K-4th or so.
Oh, I should mention that there is one small picture of a doctor holding a heart ready for transplant. Not gory, but it might gross out a kid or too. There is also a picture (a bit bloody) of an artificial heart. All my boys were okay with it, but wanted to make you aware of it in case your kids might not be.

Easy Make and Learn Projects: Human Body by Donald Silver - We had so much fun with this book. We read about a certain part of the body (in a separate book, although this book does have some explanations in it) and then made the project that goes with it. You do need to photocopy them if you have more than one child or want to use them again. Once you've done that though it's color, cut, paste, etc. My kids loved the fun things they could wear or play with like the Brain Hat. As we colored together we talked about what we're coloring and what it does in the body and examples of how it works, etc. It was a relaxing time to see what they've learned and to add a little more to their store of knowledge. We put a lot of the pieces into their science notebooks. Very highly recommended if you have crafty kids or just want to add a hands-on element to your studies.

Flip Flap Body Book: What Happens to Your Food?, How Are Babies Made?, How Do Your Senses Work? (Usborne) by Alistair Smith - We read the What Happens to Your Food? section and parts of the How Do Your Senses Work? section. I both love and hate this book. It has good illustrations and good information, but seems a bit dumbed-down at times. For example, we read about "hearing" today. From a book we read yesterday we learned that sound goes in the ear canal to the eardrum, hits the hammer, the anvil, the stirrup and then the cochlea, then the information is passed on to the brain. Both 9-yr-olds understood this and the 5-yr-old told his dad at dinner all the parts of the ear and how it worked. In this book, today, we read, "Your eardrum sends the wobbles on down inside your head." No pictures of the other bones involved. No further explanation. Wobbles. Just wobbles. Now, from my experience at dinner with aforementioned 5-yr-old I know kids can understand more. Why treat them like idiots who can only understand "wobbles"? Weebles understand wobbles. But still, the pictures are somewhat helpful, more so in some sections than others. We'll probably continue to use this book because a) we own it and b) the 3-yr-old likes to be in charge of opening the flaps. Good for the little guys, but not much use above pre-K.

Germs Make Me Sick! by Melvin Berger - It explains germs (bacteria and viruses) in a simple and clean manner. They were able to understand why people get sick. That knowledge though scared the stink right out of them - their eyes got big and their mouths dropped open. What do you MEAN our cells are dying? You feel sick because germs are KILLING your cells? They looked terrified. So we had a little chat about cells, how they constantly die and new ones are formed and that when you're sick they die a little faster than normal until your body catches up. Big sigh of relief!!!! I don't think the book did a good enough job explaining that process though. And I think it needed to. We have the old book. There is a newer one where the illustrations have been redone but I can't comment on that. The older ones are just fine. The comments by the animals were a little lame, but my kids liked them. Overall a good book and a good intro. Just lacking in a few things to make it really superb.

How Our Blood Circulates by Merce Parramon - This is a really solid explanation of how the blood circulates (and a bit about the lymph system too). It goes into a bit more detail than the other books we've read like giving red blood cells 2 pages instead of a paragraph. The illustrations are fantastic. The text is a little small so the pages appear less inviting to read. And it's not a "fun" read. It is, however, informative and well-done. This could be used for K-5th or so.

The Human Body (How it Works) by Kate Barnes - I really liked the large format of this book and the excellent illustrations. The text is easy to understand, but not very in-depth. Well, it would work for kindergarten, maybe first grade, but I feel like it's necessary to add other books to gain more information and to get more detailed illustrations. I would recommend this book but there's a section on reproduction with a huge picture of the male and female parts, like a whole page each. And there are a few paragraphs that discuss what happens in detail. It's very matter-of-fact and "scientific" but it's not something I'd want just laying around for the kids to read. I think that's something we discuss together.

Magic School Bus Chapter Book: Search for the Missing Bone by Eva Moore - All the boys loved it. It was "scary" and they were "freaked out" by the howling clock and the disappearing skeletons. All of this said with big grins on their faces and lots of begging to keep reading. Each chapter takes you through a part of the skeletal system - feet, legs, spine, head, etc. While it is fairly detailed I'd pair it with a hands-on project or experiment to help cement the learning. I also found it helpful for them identify the bone we were reading about in their own body. This is typical Magic School Bus so if you don't like the writing style, you won't like this book. I didn't so much appreciate the scary skeleton stuff, but it wasn't bad. And like I said, the boys loved it. We read this in a week. A good reader could read this independently along with some projects and come away with a good understanding of the bones.

Various other Magic School Bus books including Magic School Bus Inside Ralphie: A Book about Germs; Magic School Bus Explores the Senses; and Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole - We all love the Magic School Bus books. We've read these a number of times and they also like to watch the videos. We'll probably be using these for years to come!

Me and My Amazing Body by Joan Sweeney - This was a very easy, very gentle introduction to the body. All the major things are talked about (bones, muscles, heart and blood, lungs, blah, blah, blah) but it doesn't go into detail at all. The pictures show what it being talked about, but aren't super intricate. And the cute little smiling girl is on almost every page. My older boys liked it, but it was definitely below them. My 5-yr-old said it "was funny, not scary". Score! My almost 3-yr-old was extremely concerned because the girl fell down and cut her knee and needed a band-aid, pronto. Fortunately the next page showed a band-aid on her knee but he had to continue to talk about it for the rest of the book. An excellent introduction for pre-k through first grade. Non-threatening with just enough information.

The Nervous System (True Books) by Darlene Stille - I didn't like this one as well as the True Books Circulatory System, but it is very adequate in explaining the nervous system. The illustrations were very helpful and the text solid. Well worth using for your study of the nervous system although it's not "super exciting". I think you could use it for K-4th or so.

The Nervous System and the Brain (Invisible World) by Nuria Bosch Roca - I didn't use this one - it was too advanced and/or would take too long. I think this might work nicely for middle school to junior high. The illustrations are good, but not as good as other books. A bit on the dry side and very dense. Would be a good choice if your library already had it, otherwise I would look for something else.

See Inside Your Body (Usborne) by Katie Daynes - For such a short book, this is packed with information. While it is not in-depth, it would more than work for kindergarten, maybe even first grade. We're using it with the Joe Kaufman book. My kids love to lift the bazillion flaps and the pictures are very well done and very informative. The text, while short, is accurate and clear. I don't feel this speaks down to the kids like the other Usborne book does. There is one small section (1/4 of a page) on the ear and it covers significantly more than the Flip-Flap book although it does say "ear bones" for the middle ear. Between this and the Big Body Book I feel like we're hitting it fairly well though. I think this book would also be great as a review. Each body system has a 2-page spread and the pictures alone would jog the memory. The text would add to that even more. I'm very happy with this purchase and would recommend it alone for the younger elementary years, and with another book for the older ones.

What Happens to a Hamburger? by Paul Showers - This was a fun and easy look at the digestive system. My kids enjoyed it and were able to narrate back with ease. The illustrations of the digestive system itself were clear and colorful. I know the book has been redone, and it may be worth seeking out, but I have this older version so can only comment on it. For K-1 this would really be all you need. You would need to add a few more things for the rest of elementary. A good, solid book.

What Happens to Your Food? by Alistair Smith - This was a good book on the topic, but I prefer the first one we read (What Happens to Your Hamburger?). I was a little bugged that it didn't use the correct terms for things (like esophagus - it just kept saying "food tube") and left out whole parts of the digestive system (like the liver). Even my 5-yr-old was able to understand the body parts involved and describe what happens when you eat. I felt this book sort of dumbed it down. My kids did enjoy the flaps. They've looked through it many times. If I had my choice I'd use the other book, but if your library only had this then use it, it'll work just fine.

Well, I'm not much help here. We just used the activities/experiments suggested in the books listed above. We also used The Body Book and Easy Make and Learn Projects for hands-on visuals.

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