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How it Works: How the Universe Works Hardcover – April 1, 1994
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5-7-One hundred astronomy experiments, broken down into six groups: "Spaceship Earth," the moon, the solar system, the sun, the stars, and the cosmos. While some of them are quite simple (e.g., tying a string around an eraser, swinging it in circles, and then shortening the string to observe the change in speed), many require careful measuring, cutting, and drawing. (Parents may find themselves doing a lot more than lighting candles and covering sharp edges.) Information on the various phenomena demonstrated is quite brief; the book is clearly not intended for reports. Browsers will be drawn to the large, colorful format and photographs, but the volume is best suited as a classroom source for activities to accompany science units.
Elaine Fort Weischedel, Turner Free Library, Randolph, MA
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 4-6. Originally published in England by Dorling Kindersley, this large-format book of astronomy activities has that publisher's signature look of bright, clear photographs against a broad, white background. Illustrations include photos of supplies needed for each activity, pictures of stars, planets, moons, spacecraft, astronomers, and early astronomical artifacts, as well as paintings of objects and events in space. Each double-page spread features one subject, with a brief introductory text, at least one activity, and sometimes a boxed sidelight. The activities range in difficulty from taking a core sample of an ice-cream bar with a drinking straw to building a model of the Galileo space probe. Although the activities vary in quality and some appear in other books, the format will make this an attractive choice. Carolyn Phelan
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HOWEVER, there are no experiments in this book. There are projects and demonstrations, but not one experiment. About 1/3rd to 1/4th of the activities are written as demonstrations that could be make into experiments with an adult's guidence so that a child is led to hypothesis and to test his hypothesis through experimentation, but as written, none of the activities can qualify. The remaining activities are either demonstrations that can't be easily turned into experiments or are simply projects, like making a telescope or a sundial. Some of the activities are also made ridiculously complicated and lengthy for the amount that a student would get out of it. For example, instead of sticking a sticker on a ball and turning the ball in the dark while illumated with a flashlight to show how day and night works, the child skewers a rubber ball to make an axis, uses two pieces of posterboard to place the axis at the exact right angle, paints the ball like the earth, puts a pin where he lives, and FINALLY, after several hours, uses a lamp to demonstrate something that without all the cutesy overhead would take less than a minute. Sure, you have a neat little globe as a result, but you just spent several lesson times on an activity that should have been a fraction of a lesson! The learning from the activity doesn't justify the time spent on it. Not every activity has this problem, but enough do that the overall effect is to lower the quality of the book.
Quite simply, this book would be a great resource for a flexible, knowledgable homeschool or institutional school teacher, but its educational usefulness exactly as it is written is limited by its flaws. On the basis of its flaws, I would give it a 2, but because of its great usefulness for the knowledgable user, I'd give it a 5. A 4 is a compromise.
The main topics in this book are:
The Solar System