We used – and loved – REAL Science Odyssey from Pandia Press when my younger two kids were in elementary school. (You can read my reviews of Life and Earth and Space.) We loved the engaging lessons and hands-on labs. So, it makes sense that we would come back to the series for middle school.
I get asked to do a lot of reviews on my blog, but this is one of those cases when I emailed the company and asked if they’d let me review their products again – and we were not disappointed. The REAL Science Odyssey Level 2, Biology, is just as engaging, just as well-written, and just as hands-on as its elementary-level predecessors.
How are REAL Science Biology lessons set up?
I really love the fact that the biology lessons are set up in predictable patterns. Y’all probably know by now that I am a creature of habit. Each lesson contains:
- Read – This is the written text of the lesson, which introduces new concepts and expounds on those previously taught. This is designed so that most middle school students can read it independently. New vocabulary is printed in bold text and typically includes an explanation with the formal definition included in the glossary.
- Explore – The explore section includes both general and microscope labs. The microscope labs are optional, but highly recommended. We love them! (Because everyone always asks, this is the microscope we use.)
- Absorb – This section includes the Famous Science series and offers a chance for students to do some research on their own about topics related to that unit’s study. The topic will either be a famous scientist, pathogen, molecule, or discovery. The answers are not included in the student’s text, but are intended to be discovered through research. We have used the Internet for this.
- Learn – Finally, each chapter ends with a Show What You Know section, which is a comprehension quiz over the topics studied in the chapter. I really, really like this because it offers a good opportunity to review, gives my kids some test-taking practice (which they haven’t had much before), and shows me what we may need to go over again.
The available texts for Biology 2 include the teacher’s manual, a student text, and extra student pages, which contains only the printable pages if you have more than one child using the text. Each is available in print and digital form. I appreciated the fact that the digital form includes rights to download it to each of your children’s computers, so all your kids can use the books without violating copyright.
I haven’t used the teacher’s manual much, but the times I’ve used it, I’ve been very glad to have it. It contains answer keys and lab notes (for those times when you’re not sure the lab turned out quite like it was supposed to). It also has a suggested weekly schedule for covering science 2, 3, or 5 days of the week.
Can REAL Science Biology 2 be used for high school?
One of the reasons I was really interested in checking out the Level 2 Biology text was that I had heard that it could be beefed up enough to use for high school science. In my opinion as a homeschool mom, not a science instructor, I think it could. It includes both general and microscope labs for each chapter. It even includes a couple of dissection labs.
If I were using it for high school credit (and I’m leaning toward doing so), I’d want to add some more dissections, I think. I’m not sure what else I would adjust since we’re only into the second unit, but it might also work well alongside something like DVD lessons.
What were our thoughts about REAL Science Odyssey Biology Level 2?
As I said earlier, we are really, really enjoying this curriculum. It’s brought excitement back to our science lessons. The lessons are easy to understand without being “dumbed down.” The reading portion of the lessons is much longer than the Level 1 books, which is to be expected. It’s very appropriate for middle school students in length, subject matter, and reading level.
The labs are engaging and age-appropriate. The directions are given in numbered, step-by-step instructions so that students can do them with minimal supervision. The labs don’t shy away from math, but give kids real-life applications for all that math they’ve had to learn. (We haven’t gotten into anything too complicated, but that may be another reason this math-phobic mom is glad to have the teacher’s manual.)
The lab reports are laid out in such a way as to prepare students for high school and college level lab write-ups, with sections for:
- results and calculations
I also like that the microscope view sheets have a graph-paper-like space for students to draw what they saw. The graph lines encourage students to attempt to draw to scale what they saw through the microscope lens. I think it encourages more detailed drawings than my kids might normally attempt.
We love the hands-on labs, such as building a cell model, though we opted for a cake version, rather than the Plaster of Paris version in the text. What can I say? We each have a sweet tooth.
It’s worth noting that REAL Science Odyssey is a secular curriculum, so there is a unit on evolution. I know that will excite some of you and disappoint others. We are a Christian family, but I plan on covering the evolution unit because I think it’s important that my kids understand the Theory of Evolution and how it compares to our Ceationist beliefs, so the unit doesn’t bother me.
Finally, I want to be sure to point you to one of things I really love about all Pandia Press courses – their Try Before You Buy option. They allow you to download several week’s worth of the full curriculum at no charge – not just sample pages, but full lessons. If you like it, you just come back and pay to download the remainder. If not, you move on. That’s it. I love that!
We are so happy with our science choice for this year. I’ll be bringing you a review of Pandia Press’s history curriculum soon, so be on the lookout for that.
Have you used any curriculum from Pandia Press? What did you think?
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.