Thursday, March 8, 2012

Crew Review: Creek Edge Press' Task Card Approach

Luke and I have been stuck in astronomy for a while now. We excitedly began our study last spring when he was in 2nd grade, but got sidetracked mostly by a need to refocus on the basics with him -- primarily reading.  So when we began our new school year last fall (2011), I was de.ter.mined. to stay strong in Astronomy and finish it up and move on out.

We've only made it to Jupiter, I tell you.

So, we needed another "break" from our two-planets-a-month grind and jumped at the chance to explore physics with Creek Edge Press.

Now, Amy Kate Hillsman at Creek Edge Press had a really novel and unique idea:  meld Charlotte Mason's reliance on narration and living books with the neo-classical home education model of vocabulary (grammar) and reading and whole-year studies of science topics (biology, chemistry, physics, and earth/space) with Montessori's education's ideas of a prepared learning environment and child-directed, open-ended learning opportunities. All this and you get:  Task Cards.

The task cards provide a week or so of "work" that your child engages in to learn about a topic.  Here's what mine look like for Physics and Digital Science ($18 for each of the four science sets, or $65 for the entire science curriculum):

My set of Task Cards included 30 cardstock-weight task cards, each with a different physics/ digital science related topics.  It also came with a 13-page, comb-bound instructor's guide.  The guide includes a brief explanation of the philosophy behind the task cards, suggestions for use with emergent readers, fluent readers, and co-ops or groups, and suggested books to use.  She also provides suggestions on how to approach the tasks on the cards.  Generally, the task cards include tasks such as:

  • encyclopedia research
  • additional research
  • term definitions
  • sketching and labeling key concepts
  • summarizing information
  • presenting information {small booklets, collages, posters}
Instead of hoping online and purchasing a bunch of books, I decided to really use this as an opportunity to dig-in to the nonfiction section of our public library with Luke.  I did have to to purchase a general physics encyclopedia book.  I cannot go wrong with an encyclopedia in this house.  The boys love them.
How it worked for us:  We are still plagued with a hyper-focus on reading fluency and instruction here, so science does not get done everyday.  But we've used the Task Cards for a little while, and I have to say, I enjoy exploring the books and resources with Luke.  I can see lots of benefits to this approach:

  1. Since I don't have set resources to pull out, we fall back into the pile-of-books method of learning.  What does this look like?  Well, we grab all our science books (we're working on simple machines right now), sit on the couch, and page through them to see if it relates to our topic.  Luke's learning about tables of contents, glossaries, and the index at the back of the book.  This week we had to write a definition of a "wedge," so we paged through a couple books to find one that would help us the most.  Then I worked with him to identify the best description of a wedge, and he crafted it into a sentence.  Just in this one exercise, the learning opportunities multiplied exponentially for my guy!
  2. I really appreciate that drawings and photos are encouraged on the task cards.  This opens up additional avenues for processing and thinking about information.  Here's Luke's explanation of the relationship between the force needed to move up a ramp and distance:
  3. I love the idea of putting together larger projects to assimilate lots of different information.  When we finish our work on simple machines, we'll put together a booklet about them.  I cannot wait to see what that looks like for Luke!
  4. Although I'm doing the work alongside Luke (he's not an emergent reader, but he isn't independent either), I can see that this style of learning can have huge benefits to increase and foster independent learning.   
  5. I can see this as a very kid-friendly way to encourage progress through academic goals.  The cards have check-off boxes for each task as well as a finite number of tasks to complete.  It's as if you are handing the scope and sequence directly to your child and they can see their progress.
The Creek Edge Press store has sets of Task Cards for Science, History, Art, and Music.

Science and History/Geography/ Culture sets are designed for grades kindergarten through 8th. Science card sets are $18 each, History/ Geography/ Culture cards are $20 each. Topics are:


A set of Grammar Reinforcement cards is also available ($18 and designed for grades 2 - 6).

The Art/ Artist Study and separate Music/ Composer set ($32 each) are actually three sets of task cards in one.  It is designed for all ages and includes guides to help make it worthy of high school credit.  I really love this idea, so that a multi-aged family can be working on the same activities together!

If you are intrigued by this novel approach to learning, I'd encourage you to look at other reviewer's perspectives at the Crew Blog!

FCC statement:  Thanks to Creek Edge Press for a complementary set of Task Cards in exchange for my honest opinion about this product.  No compensation was received in exchange for my thoughts and opinions.

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