Book Review – Science Notebooks: Writing About Inquiry

Science Notebooks: Writing About InquiryScience Notebooks: Writing About Inquiry by Brian Campbell and Lori Fulton

I forget where I saw this book mentioned (probably someone’s blog) and the title sounded interesting.  I had my library attain a copy through ILL (inter-library loan) and received it last week.  Yesterday, I picked up this book and quickly finished it.  This is certainly a fast read.  Well, actually, I skimmed it.

Chapter 1| Role of the Teacher
This chapter is really devoted to the classroom teacher.  The only points worth mentioning here are to think about what type of notebook to use (authors recommend a composition book) and “create a purpose” for the notebook.  This last part about creating a purpose has me thinking a bit.  The authors stated that unless you share what is in your notebook in a genuine way, then the students will quickly lose interest in keeping a notebook.  Makes sense – if there is no purpose to the notebook, then why would a child want to invest the time in keeping one?

Chapter 2| Elements of a Science Notebook
This is really the only chapter in the book worth reading.  It gives an overview of recording and organizing data, with a caution to not dominate the student’s thinking.  This chapter also recommends using technical drawings in the notebook starting with blackline masters as a guide.  The chapter ends with how to record the student’s questions and their thinking.

Chapter 3| Signs of Student Progress
This chapter points out that using a notebook allows you to have a record of the student’s progress during the year.  A child should become better at making predictions, recording data, drawing, asking follow up questions, and reflecting on their results as the year goes by.

Chapter 4| Discussions with Two Scientists
I just skimmed this chapter since I have had to keep a science notebook during my days as a graduate student.  I suppose that if you were not sure of the relevance of keeping a notebook, then it might be worth reading this chapter.

Chapter 5 and 6 are not worth reviewing in detail since these 2 chapters draw connections between education standards and science notebooks.  As a home educator these last chapters have little relevance.

Is this book worth reading?  Maybe.  The information in the second chapter was interesting, but the rest of the book did not offer any gems.

Is this book worth buying?  Definitely not.  I was very surprised to see how highly everyone rated this book on Amazon.

Final thoughts:  This book did make me think about how I never had to keep a science notebook until my doctoral studies.  In the beginning, it was quite difficult for me to maintain my notebook and honestly, it was never second nature for me to record my thoughts or data in there.  I had a bad habit of recording data on a slip of paper, filing that slip of paper, and then writing up my experiments months later.

I have been thinking all morning about how best to implement a science notebook with my dc when we start formal science education.  I do agree that technical drawings are an important component.  I am glad that the authors suggested that we start from blackline masters since I am not confident in my drawing abilities.  The authors also suggested that students share the observations that they have recorded in their notebooks as a way to validate the process.  Since I will only have 2 students in my “classroom” I am wondering if it would be worth it to keep a notebook myself.  This would be a way that I could model my thought process, how I would go about organizing the data, and my subsequent observations without overly influencing my dc.

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One thought on “Book Review – Science Notebooks: Writing About Inquiry

  1. I think the science notebooks are a great way to teach children the scientific process. We've been using The Earth-Studies Units (Secular-HS science curriculum available free online) and I think we'll take up the science notebook as we go into our second-year. Thanks for reviewing this book; now I don't need to do it myself! What a time saver you are!

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