This post is sponsored by Oak Meadow, don’t miss their awesome science curriculum!
Do your children ever wonder why the wind blows the way it does? Or why their room never gets a breeze, when their siblings room on the other side of the house always seems to have one?
Bug has been working on Oak Meadow Grade Seven, and I wanted to take the time today to give you a closer look at their science curriculum and share some of the activities he’s done while learning about the wind while working through his Earth Science text.
It’s no secret that we are huge Oak Meadow fans, and I think one common misconception about the program is that you have to do the whole shebang in order to use it. Oak Meadow does offer a complete curriculum, covering every subject you need to teach, but they also offer stand-alone courses as well for grades 4 and above.
Oak Meadow Science is one of those homeschool hidden gems – I hear all the time that people can’t seem to find a solid, secular science program to love . . . but it may be right here under your nose. If you struggle with science for your kids, you really need to give this program a closer look.
But enough of me waxing poetic about Oak Meadow Science, let’s dig into it!
Learning about Air Pressure and Wind
This chapter starts out by reminding students that the earth is cooler at the poles, and warmer at the equator. Changes in air pressure have a huge effect on the movement of air masses. Warm air heats and expands, while cooler air sinks downwards, pushing warm air up. Air currents move in a circular pattern as they heat and cool.
In order to learn more about the wind, Bug spent the week tracking the direction of the wind at our home a few times a day, using a homemade weathervane.
This particular weather vane is assembled using an index card, a straw, a pencil, and a pen. Cut the index card to create an arrow and a tail fin. Cut the straw on either end so you can slide in the arrow and tail fin, and tape in place. Then, use the pin to connect the straw to the eraser on your pencil. Voila, a simple weather vane.
Bug discovered that the wind at our house typically blows north-south, which is awesome for us, because most of our windows face the same direction, and I hate to run the air conditioner.
As Bug read through the chapter, he took notes in his main lesson book, and copied some of the diagrams onto the page. I prefer he doesn’t write in the text itself because I like to be able to pass it along to my other kids (and let’s face it, I hope to sell them someday to pay for this crazy homeschooling thing), so notebooks and main lesson books come in really handy.
He also read about how water, land and landforms affect the wind. Land heats faster than water, so cool air from over bodies of water are often pulled toward the land creating on-shore winds. In the evening, land cools off faster than water, causing the opposite effect. Mountains also cause local winds to form, causing upwards winds during the day, and downhill winds in the evening.
We then did a really cool experiment to look at hot and cool air, and how they will rise at different speeds. My husband helped assist with this particular experiment, but only because fire was involved, and we were trying to do many things at once.
For this experiment, you need two empty jars with lids, two pieces of cotton string, and two bowls. We filled one bowl with ice water and the other bowl with boiling water. Then, we lit the string in each jar, allowing the car to fill with smoke and sealed the jar tightly.
We placed one jar in the hot water, and the other jar in the cold water, and waited a minute or two.
Once the hot and cold water had a chance to warm and cool the smoke we took the lids off the jars, and bug observed how fast the air rose out of each container.
Other Things You Need to Know about Oak Meadow Science
This science program is completely independent for Bug, most of the time. The text is written directly to him, so each week he pulls out the book does the reading (and takes notes) and chooses which of the activities he wants to do. Typically, there are three activities assigned, and there are nine or ten options to choose from.
This flexibility in choice is wonderful for adolescent children and just proves that Oak Meadow’s curriculum is carefully designed to take a child’s developmental needs into consideration. Bug loves having the freedom to choose to do hands-on experiments when he wants to do them, and research projects when he rather not. There is always an element of choice there. When he wants to dig deeper into a topic, he can do more of the listed choices.
I also love that these choices are never “busy work” – the experiments always seem to work, the topics are always well thought out, and nothing is so overwhelming that Bug can’t figure out how to do it on his own. We did support him with one of the experiments this week because I would rather him not be lighting a fire without supervision, but that is a very rare example of a time I have needed to step in to assist. And, the fire was totally worth it- the experiment worked and demonstrated the concept well.
Each week does contain a simple test at the end of the lesson. In our home, we use these to guide note-taking as he reads, rather than a test to check his understanding at the end of the week. I have found it works for us for him to write out the answers using an open book, and discussing the concept with me to show that he understands when the unit is over.
Oak Meadow Science takes Bug 3-4 hours a week on average at the 7th grade level. As the materials get to be more in-depth, and the topics more challenging, I have found that he takes a little more time each week looking for supplemental videos on YouTube or doing additional research to take the topic further. Oak Meadow is just deep enough to really tickle his curiosity and I love that it’s a solid jumping off point for more independent study.