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Textbook Review: Novare’s “Earth Science”

Kevin Nelstead’s Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home (Novare, 2016 recently purchased by Classical academic Press) addresses earth science from a refreshingly old-earth, Christian perspective. The hardcover textbook is intended for middle-school students and features full-color illustrations throughout, including diagrams and appropriate photos in each section. At just over 500 pages, with 15 chapters each subdivided into approximately 5 sections each, this robust and sturdy textbook is intended to be used by multiple students over many years and even includes multiple lines for students to write their names. (The companion resource CD was not available for review.)

Rather than providing a cursory look at all of earth science, or planetary science, the author instead focuses on selected topics to give students a more comprehensive understanding of the content. His approach encourages students to master the material covered rather than simply memorize facts that might easily be forgotten once the lesson is over. The concepts, scientific processes, basic epistemology, math, and scientific history included in the lessons also equip students for success in further science courses.

Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home presents the latest scientific developments from the field of earth science, including oceanography and other topics not usually included in geology texts. Chapter 1 features an introduction to earth science and gives a big picture view of the Earth in space. This chapter also discusses Earth’s fine-tuned placement in the universe, Earth’s orbit and seasons, phases of the Moon, eclipses, and calendars. Chapter 2 focuses on geography, map projections, geographic information systems, and more. Chapter 3 covers Christian and historical interaction with earth science, including Earth stewardship and the harmony between science and the Christian faith. Chapter 4 covers atoms, molecules, minerals, ores, and their usefulness to humanity. Chapter 5 focuses on igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks and concludes with a discussion on energy resources.

Chapters 6 and 7 delve into the topic of plate tectonics, focusing on mountain building and volcanoes and earthquakes, respectively. Chapter 8 discusses weathering, erosion, and soils. Chapter 9 is all about the water cycle and its relationship to landforms, and Chapter 10 hones in on specific landforms, such as deserts. Chapter 11 is about geologic time, with subtopics on fossils, radiometric dating methods, and more. Chapter 12 covers oceanography, marine life, and shorelines. Chapter 13 focuses on Earth’s atmosphere, and 14 focuses on Earth’s weather, including severe weather. Finally, Chapter 15 covers the climate and air pollution.

Each chapter begins with an introduction, then lays out the objectives for the chapter and the vocabulary that will be used. The objectives and vocabulary lists may help in the development of tests for each section, and the vocabulary terms serve as a great review resource for students. Learning new things can sometimes be difficult because of unfamiliar words being used, but having an easily accessible vocabulary list will mitigate that concern. I would have liked to have seen definitions for these terms included on the lists, but there is a lengthy and comprehensive glossary at the back of the book providing them. The chapters themselves are well written, thorough, and clear. In each subchapter there are a few “Learning Check” questions to ensure educational goals are being met; these can also be used for test questions. The end of each chapter contains additional exercises, and some chapters have “Experimental Investigations,” which includes hands-on activities and other in-depth projects.

Overall, Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home is an outstanding textbook to add to an old-earth science curriculum. Compared to a few years ago, we now have a rich well of resources to draw from for teaching science to young students, whether it is in formal classrooms at a Christian school or in homeschooling environments. As a matter of fact, this particular book, while excellent at teaching concepts for its intended middle school audience, could even be used at the community college level. Anyone looking for an earth science textbook for junior high or high schoolers should definitely consider this book. The straightforward writing keeps the focus on the science. Yet, as students might discover, science (as a study of God’s creation) should engender the soul and the mind to worship the Creator.

Dan Bakken

Dan Bakken is an amateur astronomer and an instructor for Reasons Institute. Dan has taught astronomy courses at the high school and community college level. Dan holds a BSc in physics, MA Christian Apologetics, and MA Science and Religion.