My Pals Are Here! Science (2nd Ed.)
If you liked Singapore’s MPH Science before but thought there were too many components to purchase, you might appreciate this revision, which has taken a few steps in the consolidation direction. Now grades 3 and 4 are combined, and grades 5 and 6 are combined, so a set of books for either level will last you two years. However, there are still quite a few pieces of the program, and in some cases, like the texts and the activity books, there are actually more titles per level now. The most noticeable difference is the division of the texts. The first edition contained two texts for each grade level, labeled “A” and “B.” Within the texts, themes central to Singapore’s primary science syllabus (diversity, cycles, systems, energy and interactions), were all covered. In the new edition, the texts are divided strictly by theme, so there is a textbook for diversity, another for interaction, and so on at each level. While you could definitely teach the themes in any order, Singapore Math recommends doing Diversity and Life Cycles for 3rd grade; Systems, Energy and Interaction for 4th grade, Cycles and Systems for 5th grade and Interactions and Energy for 6th grade. The content within the texts is much the same, although the design has been updated. Easy-to-read, engaging information is augmented by full-color photos, cartoons, charts, fun facts, extension activities, and more. Chapters begin with questions to guide the reading and end with a self-check and list of vocabulary that has been introduced. Red arrows in the margins point the way to related activities in the activity books.
Activity books are divided by theme like the textbooks, and contain a mix of pencil-and-paper activities, graphic organizer activities, thinking questions, and hands-on experiments. For example, in the Cycles Activity Book (Grades 3/4), the first section is on life cycles, and activities include matching photos of adult friends and family with their pictures as children, matching animals and their young, raising a mealworm and observing its life stages, and researching other beetles that go through the same stages as the mealworm. If you’re looking for workbook-type activities to reinforce the textbook readings, look no further than the Homework Books. There is only one Homework Book for each of the two levels, and it is organized to match the group of textbooks. Each chapter in the Homework Book correlates with a chapter from one of the textbooks, and features three sections of activities. In the first part, students answer multiple-choice questions, while the second part asks the student to complete or study a concept map (graphic organizer) and answer questions based around that. The last section presents the student with higher-order thinking questions which ask them to apply the information they learned in the text to a new problem or situation. Often a science experiment is described, and the student is asked to predict what will happen or why a result occurred based on their knowledge. Answers are located in the back of the Homework Book. One thing that really stands out about this curriculum at this point is how most of the exercises and activities are not just “fill-in-the-blank” recall questions, but questions that really ask the student to think. Your most significant investment with the new version would be the teacher’s guides. While there is only one comprehensive teacher’s guide for grades 3-4, the teacher’s guides for grades 5-6 are divided by theme like the textbooks. First of all, the guides were written with a formal classroom situation in mind, so there is some content that may not be quite as helpful to a homeschooling parent. The teacher’s guides contain an explanation of the particular inquiry learning model used in the program (BSCS 5E, to be exact), an overview of the theme with learning objectives and outcomes for each topic, in-depth learning objectives and outcomes by textbook chapter, background text for the teacher to read, lesson plans that include activities or demonstrations for each step of the scientific inquiry process, reduced copies of textbook and activity book pages with answers provided in red and teacher notes in the margins, an introduction to the theme being studied, and a gap chart which highlights the difference in topic coverage between the old and new versions of the program. So are the teacher’s guides necessary? I would say no, especially if you are confident in teaching science at this level, and have other ideas for “extending” the program and adding related experiments and projects. On the other hand, if you want a complete program with detailed lesson plans, extension ideas and activities, complete teaching notes, specific outlines and activities, and all the “official” answers, you may appreciate having it. Adding to the teacher’s arsenal of information are the More Notes. These provide additional background information for the teacher on the concepts taught in each textbook along with diagrams and charts. Suggested internet resources that correlate with the topic, and instructions for a related experiments are also included. The teacher information is in outline information, which would make a handy resource for a teacher needing “just the facts” on the characteristics of living things or the classifications of living things used through history, but this may not be necessary to you if you are supplementing with additional resource books or are already familiar with the subject. There is one test book for grades 3-4 and one for grades 5-6. Each contains tests for all texts used at that level. Tests cover between one and three textbook chapters, and questions consist of multiple-choice, using and interpreting concept maps, short answer questions, long answer questions, graphing, and more. There is also a test on each theme covered in the level (for example, a Cycles test), and several “cross-thematic” tests as well which focus on several of the thematic standards covered at that level. Answers to the tests are found in the back of the books.
Higher Order Thinking Skills Books are also available – one for grades 3-4 and one for grades 5-6. These include sets of activities for each chapter in the corresponding textbooks. These activities are also pencil-and-paper, but you won’t find many multiple choice questions here. These activities involve concept maps, charts, graphs, diagrams, true/false with explanations, predicting the results of experiments, labeling structures, using concepts to explain related problems, and more. The questions have been based on Bloom’s taxonomy, with an emphasis on more complex skills.
There are a few things you may want to note. This version (like the previous version) is not Americanized, so you will see metric measurements, spellings that look British (colour, organiser) and some of the plants and animals discussed are much more common in Singapore than they are in the U.S. Also, the consumable parts of the program (homework books, activity books, and test books) are not reproducible, so you will either need one for each child in the program, or have them write on a separate paper. However, if you are familiar at all with the previous version, you’ll find many of the same pieces of the original program here, just bundled into two, 2-year sets. This could be a plus or a minus, depending on your child’s grade level. If they are going into third or fifth grade, purchasing the components for that level will last you two years. If they are going into fourth or sixth grade, you can purchase the textbooks and activity books you would like to do at that level, but the tests, homework books, and teacher’s guides will still cover the material for both years. The materials are all attractive and child-friendly, and the questions tend to be thought-provoking and challenging. All in all, it’s a solid, engaging science program at a reasonable price, especially if you count on using it for two years. - Jess