CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 4 . . . . October 13, 2006
Kids Can Press has recently added two books to the Primary Physical Science series which began in 2005 with Adrienne Mason’s Move It! Motion, Forces and You and Touch It! Materials, Matter and You. Mason has again collaborated with illustrator Claudia Dávila to create Change It!: Solids, Liquids, Gases and You and Build It!: Structures, Systems and You.Change It!, as the title suggests, introduces young children to the three states of matter. They also learn about the properties associated with each state, changes in state that are brought about by the addition and removal of heat, and changes in state that are reversible or irreversible. Build It! introduces children to structures. These are “objects made of parts...joined together” (p. 4). Children learn that structures can be made by animals and people, and that the method of joining materials is just as important as the materials being joined since both affect stability and strength and are chosen for a specific purpose. They also find out that structures can be made stronger by layering, twisting, and folding materials or building with domed, arched, and triangular shapes.
Mason and Dávila retain the format created for the first books in the series. Each new concept or idea is presented with a small amount of text in the upper left corner of two facing pages that are covered with colourful illustrations of children happily playing or exploring. The description of the concept being introduced is appropriate for the intended audience and is often presented in a manner that tests children’s understanding. In many instances, the authors challenge readers to find examples in the illustrated scene. The only additional text on the two-page spread is a comment by an animal that is represented in a balloon quote on the bottom right hand corner. On page 25 of Build It!, for example, a polar bear with a snowboard tucked under his left arm points to his helmet saying, “My helmet is a dome. It protects another dome – my skull!” This comes immediately after reading about “strong shapes” such as arches and domes.
Where new information isn’t presented, two facing pages are given over to directions for an activity. These activities are tests of the ideas presented on the previous pages. As one example, when children read about gases they are told that “gases spread out to fill their container” (Change It!, p. 14). On pages 16 and 17 they can follow the illustrated, written directions and pour vinegar into a bottle that they stopper with a balloon holding “two large spoonfuls of baking soda" as the baking soda falls into the vinegar, Mason asks, “What’s happening?” Children will see bubbles in the bottle that are created by the vinegar and baking soda, and they will notice the balloon inflating. Mason tells them that the vinegar and baking soda combine to make a gas, and states: “This gas spreads out to fill the bottle and then the balloon.” Children who performed the activity now have first hand evidence for the claim that gases fill the space available to them. The green lizard-like animal in the bottom right hand corner that is about to dip its tongue into a glass of carbonated soda, adds: “The fizz in my pop comes from tiny bubbles of gas.” This information links the gas created in the activity to the gas in the carbonated beverages they may drink.
The information and activity pages are followed by a two-page summary that restates, in words and pictures, the big ideas introduced in the book’s first 27 pages. Information pages for patents and teachers follow. As mentioned in the previous reviews, these pages are invaluable for individuals who realize that their science knowledge is inadequate to answer the questions children ask, or that it simply needs refreshing. Each book ends with a page that includes the index and a glossary titled, “Words to know.”
There are too few books like this available for young children. I recommend the “Primary Physical Science” books to parents and to school librarians responsible for adding important books to their library’s collection. My only suggestion would be to substitute the food structures and connectors in Build It! with non-consumables or, at the very least, to build structures of nutritious foods that can then be immediately eaten.
Barbara McMillan is a professor of early and middle years science education in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.