I promised I'd let you know how the NIH science units looked when they arrived. The "Chemicals, the Environment and You" unit arrived today, complete with pre-drilled pages and cardstock insert for the front cover, back cover and spine of a three-ring binder. Very professional looking. Also included a CD-ROM with animations and video clips to support the lesson.
The first 24 pages is all "teacher stuff," explaining the curriculum, the teaching methods, how it's standards-based and conforms to the National Science Education Standards. The actual lessons are pretty idiot-proof and walks you step-by-step through the activity, lists the discussion questions (and answers!). At the back are reproducible worksheets, data sheets for experiments and hand-outs.
These units are designed to be used in a public school classroom--one instruction is to prepare a specific prop and then "hide it behind your desk"--and as such may be a little elementary for a gifted middle school child. (The "suggested timeline" says you should take two whole weeks to cover six lessons!) But the after- or homeschooler could certainly pick and choose the interesting activities from the various lessons and still come out the smarter at the other end. And the approach should certainly reassure parents who aren't confident in their ability to teach middle-school lessons or who are concerned that their child is not learning what they're supposed to be learning.
I'm still waiting on the "Scientific Method" unit but I'm going to recommend these to anyone who might be interested. Plus you can't beat the price. Your tax dollars at work. :D