We chatted about the three goals for high school science last week. In today’s episode, we are going to discuss the tools you can use to accomplish those goals!
Welcome to the Tips for Homeschool Science Show where we are breaking down the lofty ideals of teaching science into building blocks you can use in your homeschool.
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In our last episode, we chatted about the three goals for high school science – to meet the requirements for graduation, to share the key principles and laws of science, and to think about the things they are learning. Today, we are going to chat about the tools you can use to reach these goals.
Before we go into the components, though, I want to share a quick word about using outside sources to teach science in high school. Some of you may find that the best option for your student is to choose an online course or a class at your local school to meet your high schooler’s needs. I want to let you know that this is perfectly fine to do - it doesn’t make you less of a homeschooler. In fact, in some cases, it might be a better option for your student.
I know that’s strange for me to say, especially given that we offer high school programs for science, but there is lots of freedom in homeschooling and you know what’s best for your unique situation. The ultimate goal of homeschooling is to do what is best for your own student and to give them what they need to succeed.
With that out of the way, let’s chat about the tools you can use when you teach science at home. How much and how many of these you use will really depend upon what the student wants to do in the future. For now, I just want to give a picture of the options before you and we’ll discuss what it can look like in next week’s episode.
As I said last week, I really believe that all students should take at least two years of science in high school. Science is beneficial for training the brain to think logically as well as giving every student a healthy awareness of the world around them.
However, by the time a student reaches the high school years, he or she is starting to get a clearer picture of what he or she would like to do. If your student is scientifically inclined, his or her curriculum should contain most, if not all, of the tools, suggested below. If your student is not, the first two tools should be more than enough to meet your goals for these years.
With that said, for science during the high school years you have five possible tools at your disposal:
Let’s take a closer look at each of the components.
High school students need to study science from a standard high school textbook, such as CK-12, Campbell’s, Prentice Hall, or Science Matters. The idea is that they will use this textbook to learn about one discipline per year by reading through a section or chapter each week. You can have them take notes as they read through each portion or answer discussion questions from the chapter after they read.
The students will also need to do experiments that coordinate with what they are reading about in the textbook. Some of the texts mentioned above will already have experiments suggested in them, but for others, you will need to acquire experiments from another source. The Home Scientist has a great line of high school experiment kits or you can go for an online lab software or you can create your own. As a part of each experiment, we recommend that the student completes a short lab report. These reports will be a more sophisticated version of the reports they wrote during the middle school years. We also recommend that at least one to four times per year the students write a full lab report, including a section on research.
If your students have college or a STEM-related career in their future, you should also plan for opportunities for them to listen to a lecture. Whether you choose to give these or if you use an outside source, guest lecturers or YouTube videos, it is important for them to practice listening and taking notes.
High school students are becoming more and more independent with their work, so testing is necessary to affirm that they have learned the concepts. Plus, they will be expected to know how to perform on a test as they progress towards the college level.
With that in mind for the high school years, I have included exams as part of the tools you can use for high school science. The questions on the exams should be mathematical problems, multiple choice, short answers, or essays questions. They should require the student to think and draw upon the knowledge they have gained.
High school students should also become familiar with the people and events that have shaped science. Not only with this give them a deeper appreciation for how far science has come, but it will also show them how science relates to their everyday life.
There are several ways you could approach this component, some more rigorous than others. For a more demanding curriculum, have the students read several articles in current scientific journals or magazines that related to what they are studying. For a more relaxed approach, have the students read books that have been written about the great scientists or biographies about the greats in the field. Alternative, you can have your high schoolers follow the news and summarize any of the topics that relate to science.
Check out the following post on how to add current events to your homeschool science plans.
An in-depth science project is a bit more complex than the science fair project we discussed for the middle school years. For this project, the students will still come up with a question, do some research, make a hypothesis, design an experiment, analyze their results, and draw a conclusion, but on a much deeper level.
In the middle school years, the student might have spent four to six weeks on their science fair project, but during the high school years, this in-depth project will take about a semester to complete. The student will look at least two to three variables and it will take several experiments to fully test their hypothesis.
For tips with the in-depth science project, check out our book The Science Fair Project: A Step-by-step Guide.
Every high school student that is interested in further science study should be doing at least one research paper per year. These should take anywhere from six weeks to several months to complete. The student’s research should be loosely associated with what they are learning for the year.
In other words, if your high schoolers are studying biology, their topic should be related to the field of biology. The students can choose to research a major concept, a scientist or an important discovery within the field they are studying.
Remember, that a research paper must include a thesis statement which causes the student to form and defend an opinion about the material. The completed paper should be four to eight pages in length. It should touch on why they chose the topic and how it affects the students as well as thoroughly explain what they have found out about the subject.
In order to excel in the sciences, high school students will need a strong foundation in math. Many of the calculations in physics and chemistry require that the student has a working knowledge of algebra. In addition to algebra, the student who desires to go further in the sciences should aim to complete the first year of calculus in high school.
For the high school years, you can use textbooks with experiments, exams, events in science, in-depth projects, and research papers to help you accomplish your goals for science. A good science plan during these years will give you options for each of these components and it will make sure that each of the pieces relates back to the topic being studying for the week or for the unit.
As you teach science each week, you will not incorporate every single one of these components. In fact, you may not even use all these tools during the high school years depending upon your student’s goals. But by regularly learning about science through textbooks and experiments, plus testing that knowledge through exams – your students will meet their graduation requirements for high school. Add in a few events in science, an in-depth science project, and a few research papers and you will prepare your students up for success with science in college!
Next week, we are going to chat about what it actually looks like to use these tools to share science during the high school years.
Until then…thanks for listening – I hope that you leave our time together encouraged in your homeschooling journey.
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I can’t wait to share another piece of the roadmap in our next episode, but until then – I hope you have a great week playing with science!
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