Co-authored by Heather Ayala and Katie Rogstad, two home educators with science degrees who are involved in teaching secondary homeschool co-op science classes, it is designed to be used with students in Years 9 to 12 and assumes that they have not yet done courses in high school biology or chemistry.
‘Novare’ is a Latin word that means ‘to renew’ or ‘to begin again,’ and Novare’s whole science curriculum is intent upon transforming how science is taught so that students master and retain what they have learned. As a Charlotte Mason educator I was delighted to read how they do this:
• By stressing that science should always begin with Wonder. People usually do not care about what they do not love, and they do not love what they do not know about. Nature study is encouraged to nourish this love and the curriculum offers ideas for activities such as carrying out a Phenology Study throughout the year. Charlotte Mason observed that,
• By emphasizing Mastery – Novare embeds review and accountability into each of the chapters for material that has already been learned. Their emphasis on quality over quantity allows the student to be given the right amount of work to learn deeply. There is no cramming and learning just to pass a test.
• By Integration – English language skills are integrated into science, lab results are written from scratch rather than filling in the blanks. Science isn’t isolated from everything else; historical connections enhance the understanding of science as a process. Learning should not be compartmentalized because education is the science of relationships. Scientists, their theories and discoveries are covered along with technical content.
• Kingdom – we help our students to see the fingerprints of God revealed in nature. Science has a role in leading us towards truth, goodness and beauty.
‘We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of our students, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.’
General Biology contains 12 Chapters that cover the study of life, atoms and molecules, the cell and the cell cycle, genetics, classification, fungi and plants, animals, human organ systems, ecology and evolution. (see their FAQ’s for more information on how they approach this topic)
There are also three Appendices:
• Units, Unit Conversions, Significant Digits, and Scientific Notation
• Reference Data – includes measurements and Physical Constants
• The Coronavirus
A feature of the book that I liked is the ‘Hmm…Interesting’ sections that highlight something connected with the topic in the chapter. For example, when discussing the cell, one of these highlights explains how antibiotics work. Another feature was recommending a living book such as ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ for further reading.
The Apprentice’s Companion for General Biology – this is designed to accompany the text and includes experiments, lab journal, field notebook, nature notebook ideas, a commonplace book, images of art, poems, and quotes by scientists and naturalists. At the time of writing this review The Apprentice Companion is only available as a download and due to unforeseen delays is incomplete. Chapters will be added to the digital downloads as they are ready and hard copies should be available next year. The Apprentice Companion really enhances the main text and contains information required to implement the practical aspects of the curriculum so I consider it a necessary and excellent resource.
Digital Resources for General Biology – this includes teacher’s notes, planning tools, information about preparing solutions, time requirements, supply substitutions – everything you need whether you are teaching an individual or a group. It also contains photos obtained during pilot runs of the experiments and assessment documentation.
There are some things you will need to complete this curriculum, the most expensive item being a Compound Light Microscope. A digital thermometer and scales and prepared microscope slides (make your own instructions are included) are also required. Novare have used everyday materials where possible to make the experiments manageable e.g. eggs previously left to soak in vinegar are used to demonstrate osmosis. The downloads include a list of materials required for the lab activities and links to a supplier should you wish to purchase items not found in grocery stores.
I asked my daughter to share what she liked about Novare General Biology and this was her reply:
“It doesn’t write down to you, but is still very understandable. The book is thorough and you actually learn and remember things because of how the subject is taught. It’s very interesting and I like the way concepts are explained. There is even a section on Covid-19 which explains it well. I like that it encourages nature study and that it prioritizes quality over quantity. The whole book is very well written.”
Novare General Biology is a very professional but accessible curriculum for high school students. The authors recognize that some students can handle more than others therefore teachers should feel free to cut some material from the chapters if necessary.
It is very refreshing to have access to a solid science course that prioritizes wonder and seeks to integrate the humanities into the study of science. Charlotte Mason educators will find this curriculum suits the method. It is challenging, has plenty of hands-on involvement, and is flexible enough to be used with an individual student or in a group situation. Although we’ve only completed a few of the experiments at the time of writing this review, I think the labs in Novare Biology seem do-able at home. The Chemistry and Physics courses look like they require more in the way of scientific equipment.
There is a support group for Novare Science on FB where you may post questions about the different courses and lab activities.