BFSU Synopsis and Content

The lessons in BFSU address all the major areas of science—Nature of Matter [Chemistry], Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth and Space Science. Each of these “Threads” builds in a logical, systematic manner K through 8, each lesson providing a review of past learning and setting the stage for the next.

The intent is for threads to be pursued more or less in tandem, switching among threads as interests, time of year, current events, and/or special opportunities make one topic more relevant than another at a given time, as well as providing variety. It also enables innumerable opportunities for integrating the different areas of science. This rigor plus flexibility will enhance learning.

A synopsis of the Threads and Contents of each volume follows:

Thread A – Nature Of Matter

Thread A begins (in BFSU, [Vol. I]) with activities that draw students to derive the principle of the particulate nature of matter. As students apply this concept to solids, liquids, and gases, they learn to interpret states of matter in terms of interactions among particles. Activities lead them to interpret their observations of evaporation, condensation, freezing, melting, and other phenomena in terms of the interactions among particles changing with temperature. They go on to apply these ideas to gaining a basic understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere and the water cycle. In parallel studies, students learn to distinguish materials, an activity that may be ongoing, on the basis of various criteria including magnetism and integrate this with the Earth’s magnetic field and the use of a compass, a skill that is put to use in Thread D lessons. The relationship of between rocks, minerals, crystals, dirt, and soil is included.

In BFSU, Vol. II, students’ appreciation for the particulate nature of matter is expanded to understanding the “particles” in terms of atoms and their interactions. By observing Brownian motion they gain the concept of atomic/molecular motion. In turn, they apply this concept to making sense of observations concerning diffusion and the expansion/contraction of gases, liquids, and metals with temperature. In parallel activities they gain first-hand familiarity with the idea of density and its measurement. Putting the ideas of expansion/contraction with temperature and density together, students gain a full comprehension of convection currents and apply this to understanding basic patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that will extend into understanding factors behind weather and climate (Thread D). An extensive lesson conducted from an historical perspective brings students to understand the basic idea that all matter is comprised of roughly 100 kinds of atoms, which may occur singly comprising elements, or in various combinations as compounds.

In BFSU, Vol. III, lessons focus on developing basic concepts of chemistry, in particular the different ways in which atoms bond and how the kind of bonding determines the nature of resulting compounds, e.g., minerals from ionic bonding; organic compounds from covalent bonding. Acids and basis, hydrogen bonding and its significance to the behavior of water and biological molecules, and energy changes inherent in chemical reactions are covered. Lessons extend to addressing basic concepts of nuclear chemistry, radioactivity, radioactive dating, and nuclear energy. Connections between chemistry and living systems are made all along the way.

Thread B – Life Science

Thread B begins (in BFSU, [Vol. 1]) with having students observe and reason out basic parameters of living systems, distinctions between living and nonliving (non-biological) systems, distinctions between plants and animals, and the basic principles of life cycles, food chains, and adaptations. Identification of common plants and animals in their region and the concept of species is pursued. Such studies are advised to become ongoing activities. Basic facets of animal anatomy and physiology are approached through investigating and uncovering the answers to the question: How do animals move? In addition to the basic operation of the skeletal-muscle system, this approach brings in the essential need of food and the digestive system to provide energy, the nervous system to provide direction, and so on. Parallel lessons investigate the basic structure and function of plant parts, seed germination, characteristics of seedling development, and plant soil and water relationships.

Lessons in BFSU, Vol. II, bring students to observe that all tissues of all living organisms are comprised of cells, albeit that cells of each tissue have specialized form and function. Furthermore, all aspects of growth and development depend on cell growth, division, and differentiation. Students analyze whole-body functions and systems in terms of providing the body’s cells with what they need to perform their roles. Parallel studies bring students to observe and investigate fungi, bacteria, and protozoa and examine their roles in nature and disease. Also included are lessons that engage students in practicing the fundamental techniques of gardening including soil care and maintenance, as well as investigating and learning aspects of plant growth, development, and reproduction at the level of cells.

In BFSU, Vol. III, lessons focus on taking students’ understanding of the whole body and cells to the chemical level. Integrating their developing knowledge of chemistry (Thread A), students will extend, to the chemical level, their understanding of basic aspects of nutrition, growth, energy metabolism, and reproduction. Specific attention is given to the role of DNA, the principles of energy metabolism, and the movement of materials across cell membranes. Lesson B-30 applies this learning to understanding viruses, their role in disease, and how we repel them. Finally all lessons are applied to a study of the structure, function, and population dynamics of ecosystems. Darwin’s observations, his reasoning, and subsequent studies are presented in Lesson D-20 but leave students and teachers free to draw their own conclusions.

Thread C – Physical Science

Thread C begins (in BFSU, [Vol. I]) by drawing children to recognize that something is required to make anything go, work, or change. Investigations lead them to conclude that the “somethings” are: heat, light, electricity, or a push and are referred to as forms of energy. Through experiential learning, students go on to recognize that forms of energy are readily changed, one into another, and likewise stored and released through simple devices, e.g., light bulbs and batteries. But, matter is neither conveniently turned into energy nor energy into matter. These energy concepts are integrated with and provide fundamental understanding of biological systems–light is the energy source for plants; food is the energy source for animals. Further lessons bring students to observe and investigate inertia, friction, and the fact that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. They discover all of them to be aspects of needing energy to “go” and/or energy conversions. Sound is treated as a special case involving the transfer of movement energy, i.e., vibrations.

In BFSU, Vol. II, students use concepts gained through lessons in Volume I to understand how things fly, center of gravity, and momentum. Through experimentation, students discover the basic principle of force time distance = force’ times distance’ and find how this principle applies to all machines from inclined planes to hydraulic lifts. In parallel lessons involving experimental testing, students learn the basic principles of electric circuits including switches, conductors and nonconductors, ground wires, and fuses. Basic aspects of light and seeing are introduced.

In BFSU, Vol. III, students’ experimentation with light elucidates principles of reflection, refraction, lenses, eyes, optical instruments, and the entirety of the electromagnetic spectrum of which visible light is a small portion. Students continue experimental testing with electricity and observe the connection between electric current and magnetic fields, findings that lead to a basic understanding of generators and electric motors. How electricity is produced, its prospects, and problems is addressed. Gyroscopic action and elasticity are topics included along the way. Finally, drawing on the store of experiential learning accumulated throughout, the distinction between force and energy and the natural forces existing in the universe are addressed. Likewise, natural laws of energy (thermodynamics) are derived based on observations and experience.

Thread D – Earth And Space Science

Thread D begins (in BFSU, [Vol. I]) by drawing students to appreciate that our planet Earth is a sphere and that their experience of things falling down is due to a force, gravity, which draws everything toward the center. Concepts of vertical and horizontal are developed accordingly. By modeling the sun and Earth, students discover how day and night result from the Earth’s rotation, how N, E, S, and W correspond to the Earth’s axis of rotation, and how time corresponds to its rate of rotation. Students learn basic skills of drawing and reading maps including noting and following compass directions. Mapping activities extend into researching major landforms and biomes and their locations. Parallel activities lead students to observe and record changes in weather, corresponding changes in the biological world, and relate these to the progress of the Earth in its orbit about the sun. Weightlessness in space and the distinction between weight and mass are included, and students are introduced to the study of rocks and fossils.

In BFSU, Vol. II students elucidate how seasonal changes result from the manner in which the Earth orbits the sun. Mapping skills are extended to understanding and plotting latitude and longitude. Understanding of the water cycle is expanded to include ramifications and problems of maintaining water supplies and wastewater disposal. Mapping locations of volcanoes and earthquakes extends into an understanding of tectonic plates and their movements. By ascertaining variance in solar radiation striking different portions of the Earth and integrating the phenomenon of convection currents (A-Thread), students unravel the causes for wet tropics and subtropical deserts existing in respective regions.

In BFSU, Vol. III, lessons concerning atmospheric circulation are extended to elucidating the Coriolis effect and how this leads to predominately easterly or westerly winds, rain shadows, and other perturbations of weather. Mapping exercises are extended to actually measuring latitude and longitude. Real-time observations of the lunar cycle give a picture of the moon’s orbit, the cause for its phase changes, and eclipses. Observations of planets and stars and calculations of relative sizes and distances give a picture of the solar system, our galaxy, and the universe beyond. Observations of rates of erosion and eroded land forms give a picture of an old Earth. An examination of Darwin’s observations and reasoning shows how he derived his conclusion. Subsequent findings are included, but leave teachers and students free to draw their own conclusions. Finally, the many parameters of pollution are addressed.

BFSU Special Features

The “Building Foundations Of Scientific Understanding” Curriculum:

Is based on research revealing how children learn, retain information, gain understanding, and develop thinking skills.

A common inclination in teaching is to have in mind the facts that one wishes the child to learn (now called standards) and, by one means or another, get kids to memorize those facts. Unfortunately, the common experience is that kids soon forget that information, or if they remember it all, they often reveal confusion and misinterpretations regarding its meaning and context. Clearly, the methodology of simply getting kids to memorize information does little for long-term retention and neither develops understanding nor the ability to think rationally.

Modern investigations into learning reveal three key principles behind developing long-term memory, understanding, and rational thinking.

  1. Lessons must connect to what children see and experience in their everyday lives.
  2. Lessons must relate to, build on, and connect to one another so that understanding is developed in logical, systematic increments—a natural sequence of stepping-stones.
  3. Thinking, like learning to play the piano, is developed by continual exercise and practice, not by a handful of lessons requiring thinking.

We observe further that the stage is set for long-term retention and life-long learning as the “pieces” fit together into an integrated framework of understanding, a framework that is ever expanding. Need it be said that a child’s discovery of how the pieces fit together is the “ah-ha” moment when the light bulb goes on. It is what generates the real joy of learning.

The lessons in BFSU have been written and organized in a manner to facilitate these three key aspects in developing long-term memory, understanding, and rational thinking.

Requires NO Particular Background In Science Or Teaching:

Basics of teaching according to how students learn and how to stimulate them to think for themselves are given in Chapters 1 and 2 of Vol. l. Furthermore, each lesson throughout BFSU includes instructions to the teacher regarding bringing students to observe, question, experiment, and reach conclusions through on logical reasoning. Thus, skills of inquiry learning are built into each exercise. Teachers will engage in inquiry learning and learn the science along with their students and be excellent role models in doing so.

Involves Minimal Cost:

Every effort has been taken to minimize cost. Required materials are common items about the house or easily available from a supermarket, home supply store, or collected from nature with children’s and parents’ participation. There are no sales pitches to buy anything additional.

Addresses And Integrates All Major Areas Of Science

BFSU pursues four “Threads”—Nature of Matter, Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth and Space Science—which are pursued more or less in tandem through the entire curriculum and connected at many points along the way. In this manner, students gain a broad, integrated, foundation of understanding embracing all the major areas of science.

Emphasizes Child-Centered, Hands-On, Inquiry Learning And Rational Thinking

Lessons are designed to have students make observations, pose questions, conduct tests, and exercise rational thought so that students gain knowledge through their own examination, manipulation, and thinking, not by memorizing answers. In short, BFSU provides continual practice in these skills of life-long learning.

Builds Understanding In Logical, Systematic Steps

It is well proven that comprehensive understanding, like constructing a building, comes from adding and fitting the pieces together in logical, systematic steps. The lessons in BFSU are designed to have learning and understanding build in a logical steppingstone-like manner.

Facilitates Retention

The logical steppingstone-like sequence of lessons in BFSU has the result that each new lesson provides an automatic review and reinforcement of what went before. This, plus the connections between lessons providing an interconnected framework of understanding, greatly enhance retention.

Relates All Lessons To Children’s Every-Day World

Both experience and research show that learning is enhanced when lessons relate to the child’s life in the real-world. All the lessons of BFSU center on children’s real-life observations and experience. Furthermore, “homework” consists of suggestions to find further examples and applications of the lesson in real-life situations.

Fosters Coordination Among Teachers, Caregivers, And Students

Every lesson in BFSU contains a section, “To Parents and Others Providing Support.” This section suggests things caregivers can do to help their child relate and apply the lesson to their everyday life. As well as reinforcing their child’s learning, this provides and facilitates cooperation and coordination among the teacher, students, parents and other caregivers.

Integrates Reading And Writing

In many cases science has been pushed aside to make more room for teaching basic reading and writing. BFSU advocates harnessing reading and writing to the learning of science. For this purpose lists of suggested readings and writing assignments are given with each lesson.

Standards Are Achieved By Gaining A Broad, Comprehensive understanding of science, not by teaching to the test.

Standards are derived by starting from a broad, comprehensive understanding and choosing particular elements that seem pivotal to that understanding. Experience demonstrates, however, that teaching to those elements often does not produce the desired understanding. BFSU goes directly for gaining the broad, comprehensive understanding. Thereby, achieving standards will be natural product.