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How to Use Science Content Standards at Home

This article is a companion article to Propagating Japanese Maples from Cuttings.

Do you want to enrich your child’s science education at home? Enrichment activities should be fun and interesting. For best results, hands on projects are best. Consider this simple tree planting project and tie in at least two science standards.

Where to Find Science Content Standards

The department of education website of your state lists the specific content standards by subject for your child’s grade. You can also access the National Science Education Standards at the National Academies Press website. The link takes you to a particular page with a handful of life sciences standards. The way you would use the standards is to choose one. Keep in mind that any project linked to a standard will probably not totally round out the understanding, but it will add to the child’s repertoire of science skills and knowledge.

What are Content Standards?

Content standards are standards that schools use to create lesson plans, purchase curriculum material, and ultimately test their students to see which standards are being met in a school district. States create the standards and public school districts are mandated to use them. Today most teachers are required to link lesson plans to content standards.

How to Link Content Standard to Fun Activities at Home

Take a project with the standard as a goal in mind.

For example for the standard “interdependence of organisms” You could root two Japanese maples and plant them in separate pots. In one, you could add mycorrhizae, compost and  organic fertilizer. In the other add only compost and organic fertilizer.

Since trees take a long time to grow, most likely this is an experience your child could not possibly have in school. Comparing the two trees at regular intervals by either taking pictures or drawing and writing about observations will teach a science process standard as well. (Consider the possibility of tying in the scientific method.) It may peak interest in understanding why one tree is doing better than the other. Maybe you could begin a fun study of mycorrhizae at this point. (Here’s a good start.)

Measuring and Recording Data

Consider measuring growth with a sewing measuring tape. These are made of cloth or plastic and are less likely to damage the trees.

You might choose Mondays and Fridays to measure and observe your trees. Or if you find that progress is slow, choose a longer interval like once a week. Depending on your resources and your child’s talents and abilities, you can record observations in several different ways. Some things that can be measured: a leaf — mark it so you measure the same one each week, a stem or the height of the tree. Other observations: coloration, blemishes on leaves or stem, etc. Always remember to include date and time of observation.

Different ways to record:

Let your child choose the method he or she likes best:

  • Have your child describe into a tape recorder.
  • Your child can take photos and label them with observations and measurements.
  • Your child can draw the trees and label them.
  • You or your child can create a data table and fill in the blanks or check the boxes during observations.

Additional Activities

  • Find interesting books about other interdependent organisms in the library together with your child. It’s totally okay to allow your child to take books out that are below his reading level. The key to making this an enriching experience is that the books should interest him or her and that there is new information to the child. Even college students sometimes read children’s books to get a basic understanding of a complex topic.
  • Your child can create a book or website about the experience. If he or she is artistic, they can create a painting or other craft demonstrating what was learned.

Most important of all, have fun! Let us know if you decide to take on this or a similar project. I’d be very interested to know how it goes. Also, please feel free to post questions here.

(I am working on lesson plan posts that will be linked to science standards. If you subscribe to this blog, you’ll be notified whenever there is a new post.)

About Christiane Marshall

Christiane Marshall is a freelance writer/copywriter and special education teacher living on 173 acres in Southeast Ohio. She is a minister's wife, mother of five grown children and a grandmother of one new baby girl. Christiane specializes in copywriting but also enjoys writing articles on many subjects including organic gardening, education, special education and advocacy, faith, travel, and animal rescue.
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