Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Review: Elements of Faith

I have looked at the book Elements of Faith by Richard Duncan for at least a year, and always planned to get it when Connor started Chemistry.  We're halfway through Chemistry, almost, and thanks to New Leaf Press and their review program, we are now having the opportunity to use this book.

Elements of Faith, Volume 1 takes a closer look at the first fifty elements on the periodic table.  The main part of the book includes a two page spread for each of these elements.  Connor and I are working through these as a daily devotional, and we are loving it.  Let's look at a random element, and I'll explain the basic format for each.  I just opened the book, and hit Scandium.  I like that it is obscure.

Each Element page spread includes the little periodic table info block... in this case, giving an atomic number of 21, telling me the symbol is "Sc" and that the atomic weight is 44.9559.  There is an arrow pointing to its spot on a larger periodic table, so you have some context.  And the title of the page gives a bit more information, and a Bible verse.  In this case, that is: "SCANDIUM: 'A Little Does A Lot'  'A little leaven leavens the whole lump' (Gal. 5:9)."

There is a data box for each element that gives some brief descriptions and history of the element.  Such as the fact that scandium is a silvery-white soft metal. (Of course, after doing earlier elements, we already knew scandium is a metal because of the -ium ending.)  There is information on the discovery of scandium (by, you guessed it, a Scandinavian chemist) and when the existence was predicted.  There is information about how the element is used.

The remainder of the first page is titled "Analysis" and this segment is the longest section for most of the elements.  These vary a bit.  For scandium, the discussion is mostly about metallurgy and the discoveries that are yet to be made.  One aspect being that the properties of alloys are not always predictable.  And the example being given in here has to do with adding a very small amount of scandium to aluminum and how that drastically changes the properties.  Scandium-reinforced aluminum could revolutionize the aerospace industry.

On page 2, there is a section called "Reaction" which is the Biblical application... and now the title of this page comes into focus.  The application section talks about a small amount of scandium making radical changes, just like a bit of leaven/yeast causing dramatic effects.  A couple paragraphs go through various examples from the Bible, with a number of references (and full quotes) included.

I'll confess that I worried about this section, as I was pretty sure that he'd be really, really stretching to make some of these elements relate to the Bible.  Maybe I haven't read enough yet (I've read about 20 of them, not the whole book, but I don't want to spoil my time with Connor by reading too far ahead.  He and I have done about ten.)  So far, though, the applications have all really made sense.

The next section is a "Quick Quiz" which is five fairly easy (usually) questions.  We've encountered a couple that we had to go back to the text on the previous page to answer, but not many.

The final section for each element is the "Response" section.  This is generally another Biblically based statement, and a short prayer.  In this case, it has to do with the negative examples of leaven (Matthew 16:6-12 and 1 Corinthians 5:6) and the prayer is that we can be a good influence and a good representative.

Connor could certainly read this on his own, but I am enjoying spending 10-15 minutes with him each morning and I don't think I'm going to want to give this up.

At the end of the book is a section with ten experiments involving some of the elements.  Most are things we've done before... but certainly not all.  As a supplement to high school chemistry, I don't see us making much use of these pages.  If I end up using this with younger kids, though, we may.  There are also answers to the quizzes and a glossary.

Connor's synopsis (slight paraphrase):  I like this book.  Mr. Duncan does a great job of making the elements seem real to me, not just some little symbol on a chart.  So far, the Analysis sections have been mostly about things I didn't know already, and all of that makes the elements seem important to understand.  His Biblical applications have all been good and made me think.  I think this is a great book, and I want Volume 2 when it comes out.  I think all my siblings need to do this alongside their high school chemistry too.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review. 

1 comment:

Deanna said...

I am glad to read your review on this book. I saw it and was really interested in it.

My son's science book this semester covers the Periodic Table and I wondered if this would make a good supplement.

I am such a educational geek that I was curious about reading it just for me.