About Integrated Science at Home

Over the past three years, my family has created blogs documenting our study of chemistry, biology and physics. Unlike the standard public-school model of teaching science, however, we didn't approach our "courses" as lists of facts to memorize and formulas to learn. Instead, we tried to get a feel for what the science was looking at, why people who studied that science found it interesting, and what new topics were being explored. To do this I generally planned each year around a book or books aimed at a popular audience but sometimes including textbooks, which I used to figure out what topics and basic ideas I thought we should include. To present the actual material, we used lots of videos, both DVD sets borrowed from the library and videos we were able to stream online. We took field trips, attended lectures, and talked to actual scientists and professors who encouraged us in our approach. And we did lots of experiments and activities that made us look and think and play around with the science concepts being studied. The result was a focused look at a few topics rather than a broad-based overview of each discipline.

This year, instead of circling back around to a subject we'd already covered, we're trying something different: We're going to look at science from an integrated viewpoint, hopefully going over the basic concepts we may have glossed over earlier, and seeing how it all fits together. Our spine for the year is the college-level text The Sciences: An Integrated Approach by James Trefil and Robert M. Hazen. We also watching Hazen's Teaching Company video lecture series The Joy of Science.

And I've just started looking for activities and experiments to go along with our studies. Because we haven't done Earth and Space science for a while, I'm going to concentrate on finding labs in these areas. And one interesting discovery I am making is that middle schools, high schools and colleges are starting to use Astrobiology as the basis for integrated science courses for non-majors. This sounds like a very interesting way to explore the interaction of all the sciences, and I'm very excited to see what turns up.

Another area that we haven't explored before is thermodynamics. That brings up all kinds of interesting topics of its own, including the arrow of time and the concept of entropy.

As always, I'm going to be looking for free and low-cost materials and activities we can do at home. I'll also keep an eye out for local colleges and museums that can offer opportunities for my family to learn about this branch of science.

So look for a growing list of Integrated Science resources in the sidebar and see what activities we've come up in our posts!