Sunday, March 16, 2014

Elements: The Gifts That Keep Giving

Books are very special in our house. Sean has always had a full bookshelf, and as he has outgrown some of them, they've been replaced with books that are at his current level.

While he was at the public Montessori school there were book fairs several times a year. We attended all of them, and always came away with at least one book. And this is funny, in a way, because this is a kid who doesn't enjoy reading. Not novels, anyway.

It was at one of the final book fairs of the year that I found a couple of things I wanted to put back for his birthday. One was a book called, "The Elements." It's beautiful, and I just knew he'd love it. I also had already been thinking of doing homeschool again, and figured even if we didn't, this book would definitely be useful for years.

He opened it on his birthday last year and was overjoyed. It has been his go-to book for reading pleasure. I haven't asked him to do anything with it at all.

Last week he decided he would use it for the science part of his work plan, and came up with an activity on his own. He wanted to make a list of five elements off the top of his head, then look them up in the book and write down how they are used.

First he began by telling me that elements are so important, because without them we wouldn't be here. We need these elements in order to live, he said. Then he made his list of five, and started looking for them in the book to get information.

While he was working on that his math teacher arrived and made a comment about the book. "That's the one that comes with the cards, right?" he said. It didn't come with cards. I didn't know about the cards. He said he saw it in his Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest training. He described some of the information on the cards, and how they can be used, and I immediately got online to search for them. Found 'em. Ordered. Delivered on Thursday.

The cards are a companion for the book, in my opinion. Although I believe either could be used exclusively without the other. The book is gorgeous. Each element is represented by a color photo and some information about it. The periodic table is explained and in color as well.

The front of each card has a large color photo of the element, along with the number of the element, and on the back is detailed information.

I had Sean read the cover card, which provides a variety of ways to use the cards. He decided his first work would be to arrange the cards by melting point.

This work had him thinking. He wanted me to work with him, but all I did was hold up a card and say the name of the element, and he would take it and either predict the melting point, or just look on the back for it and place it on the floor. But he decided some of them would be a negative number, just based on what he knows about the element. I was genuinely intrigued with this work, and his explanations of why one element would have a negative melting point temperature while another would be a really high positive number melting point, so I provided the awe and wonder while he walked me through the work as he was doing it.

It also had him using math, and putting the numbers in order from lowest to highest melting point. We didn't get through all 118 of them yet. Unfortunately we work in the living room and couldn't leave all of the cards out over the weekend to come back to on Monday. We stacked the cards he already arranged, and put the others back in the box. I'm sure he'll come back to this work, and I am excited to see how he continues to use these cards in different ways.

If you are interested in "The Elements" book or cards, you can find them here and here. I bought the book at a Scholastic book fair, but got the box of cards from Amazon. I see there is also one called "Elements Vault." It looks great. We don't have that one. Yet.

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