Curriculum Laboratory

Teaching Ideas Showcase: Great Science Activity Books for Grades 1-9 Science

For further assistance in using any of the resources in the lab, please ask at the Curriculum Lab Information Services Desk

  • The information on this web page has been created by Dr. Keith Roscoe, and Bill Glaister. For more information go to the University of Lethbridge Directory, and search under their names.
  • This web site is based on presentations that have been shared at several Teacher Professional Development Conferences across Alberta (2006-2007).

The Situation in Southern Alberta Schools


At present, the two recommended elementary science textbooks in Alberta do not address the majority of outcomes for the science curriculum. Therefore, they are not rated as "basic student learning resources" by the Alberta Government Learning Resources Centre, as most textbooks are. As a result, they are not used by teachers to any large extent, in southern Alberta classrooms:

• Explorations in science (507 Exp)
• Innovations in science (507 Inn)

Many teachers make heavy use of the Edmonton Public Schools Science units, and Science Assessment Manuals, to cover the science outcomes in elementary schools. However, there are a number of other excellent series that are worth examining, which provide teachers with excellent background information, activities, assessment strategies, links to other subjects, and links to excellent children's literature titles, etc.

The Elementary Science Program is currently under review and a new program will likely be in place within five years. General directions for change, based largely on input received during the program review, include the following:

• Develop skills and concepts in depth by considering four topics of study at each grade rather than five.
• Improve alignment with the Pan-Canadian framework.
• Infuse ICT outcomes and FNMI perspectives into the program.
• Include science–technology-society connections at Division 2 to improve relevance to students.
• Improve connections with other programs, e.g., language arts, mathematics and social studies.
• Initiate calls for science resources that have a strong curriculum fit.


Objectives of this Handout/Workshop


Participants will:

  • Increase their awareness of hands-on activity resource series available for the Alberta Elementary Science Program. (NOTE: Hands-on activity resources can be defined as textbooks, some with accompanying titles, with a strong emphasis on student activities.)
  • Critically evaluate a variety of hands-on science resources , using given criteria.
  • Compare the hands-on resource series with resources being used by participants for grades 1-6 science.


Curriculum Correlation Chart for Recommended
Elementary and Junior High Science Activity Series


The Curriculum Correlation Chart links all the series titles to the topics in the grade 1-6 (and 7-9) Alberta science curriculum. Series background information, ordering information, and related web resources are highlighted.


What Makes an Excellent Science Activity Book?


There are a number of criteria that will be found in excellent science activity books. Some of the series titles we will be examining do a better job of meeting the majority of these criteria than others.

In the workshops, 5-6 groups were formed to examine the series that correlate to the following science topics. One topic was selected for each grade, based on the fact that the majority of the series have titles that correlate to these topics. Therefore, participants got the chance to see all the series (If a series was not represented in that topic, another title for that grade was selected for that series, so each group could evaluate each of the 8 recommended series.)

  • Grade 1E: Needs of plants and animals
  • Grade 2A: Exploration of liquids, with a series title from 2B: Buoyancy and boats
  • Grade 3A: Rocks and minerals, with series titles from 3C: Testing materials and designs
  • Grade 4E: Plant growth and changes, with series titles from 4B: Wheels and levers, and 4D: Light and shadows
  • Grade 5A and B: Electricity and magnetism and Mechanisms using electricity
  • (Grade 6C: Sky science. Note: the series, "Science and Technology for Children" is not represented in any of the grade 6 topics.)

NOTE: The grade 7-9 Success in Science series was displayed at each table, for those teachers covering these grades.


Which Recommended Science Activity Series
Are the "Best?"


At the end of each workshop, the participants were asked to summarize the strengths and weaknesses of each recommended series, and rank them, using an evaluation summary chart. Below is the summary of the results from the workshops, listed from most highly recommended, to the least highly recommended.


Besides the unauthorized Edmonton Public Schools units and the authorized (but out-of-print) Explorations and Innovations series, there are several elementary science curriculum series appropriate for the Alberta Elementary Science Program. Three recent Canadian series—Addison-Wesley, Scholastic, and Portage & Main—are well-designed, comprehensive and engaging for students, and closely match the Pan-Canadian Science Framework. The major American science curriculum projects such as AIMS, DELTA, FOSS, GEMS and STC are well-funded and widely-tested series that exemplify active hands-on science learning and effective science pedagogy and assessment.

The rankings are adapted from the comments of the workshop participants, and are not necessarily the opinion of Dr. Keith Roscoe or Bill Glaister.

Thank you to all workshop participants for contributing to the rankings, and being willing to share them.

1st (Most highly recommended series):


Scholastic Pan Canadian Science Place:

A comprehensive series with great "kid appeal." Each lesson plan consists of 3 sections for the students activate, explore, and apply. The series are basic student textbooks in Ontario and British Columbia, with individual titles authorized in other provinces, including Alberta. Scholastic has added to the titles, depending on the Curriculum outcomes in each province. Each lesson includes content background, preconceptions, getting organized, strategies for atypical students, "curiosity place," and integrating science into other subjects. The student books are attractive, but should be produced as "big books" or posters, as many schools may not be able to buy a class set of these books.



Edmonton Public Schools Resource Development Services Elementary Science Series:

A widely-used (but unauthorized) resource which matches the Alberta Science Program reasonably well. The EPS units are pretty basic, contain little background information for teachers, and do not address all of the knowledge and skill outcomes in the elementary science program or support diverse student learning needs.   



Addison Wesley Science & Technology

Each title in the series includes a full colour student book, as well as a teacher's guide. The student books include a variety of activities including group discussions, experiments, reading, writing and presentation activities. The teacher's guides include unit overviews, planning notes, web links, curriculum connections, background notes, enrichment activities, student handouts, and a variety of assessment activities. This series is a 100% match to the Atlantic Canada science curriculum, with many topics that fit the Alberta science curriculum.



Hands-On Science (and Technology) (Portage & Main Press):

Hands-On Science and Technology activity  guides are based on the Pan-Canadian Science Framework and authorized in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia. Each activity guide includes easy-to-follow lesson plans, background information, materials lists, activity worksheets, blackline masters, assessment suggestions with rubrics, literature lists, annotated web sites, and teacher references.  



Edmonton Public Schools Resource Development Services Success in Science Series:

Produced for grades 7-9 science.   These Alberta Science curriculum units are adapted for ESL and special needs students who are capable of working through most of the science content, but struggle with the language level of the regular textbooks.   They should be able to work through the units with limited guidance.   The Teacher Resource Manuals include background materials such as processing data and lab safety, as well as assessment materials.


Science and Technology for Children (STC Units):

The STC series, developed by the National Science Research Council in the US,  includes 24 inquiry-based exemplary science units for K-6. Each unit is based on the learning cycle, has a teacher’s guide and a student workbook.  The series provides age-appropriate experiences which allow children to expand their understanding of important science concepts, acquire problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and develop positive habits of mind toward science. The books are reasonably-priced two-colour resources that include extensive information for teachers, including ideas for instruction and assessment.


Aims Education Foundation: Aims Activities (Activities Integrating Mathematics and Science):

AIMS hands-on math and science activities are engaging, affordable, and easy to use. The AIMS books include interesting and unique activities, with good teacher support, cool kid-friendly activity handouts, and extension activities for music, language arts, and physical education. Many of the AIMS books fit the Alberta science program, although they are not an exact curriculum match.  


Lawrence Hall of Science GEMS (Great Explorations in Math and Science):

The GEMS series contain imaginative and engaging activities which exemplify scientific inquiry. Very detailed information for implementing the activities in the classroom is given, although few blackline masters are provided.  


Lawrence Hall of Science FOSS (Full Option Science Series):

A hands-on active-learning resource with teachers’ guides containing detailed lesson plans and assessment tools, student story books, equipment kits, and a website. Activities promote scientific inquiry, multisensory methods, student interaction and collboration, and reflective thinking.

10th (Least highly recommended series):

Delta Science Modules

Delta Science modules (4-6 week units) comprise 58 different kits for hands-on science, each including a comprehensive teachers guide, student science readers and equipment kits.  Expensive, but a wide variety of good activities, many of which you can download for free from the website.

Produced by:  Dr. Keith Roscoe and Bill Glaister, January 2006. Updated February 2007.