Saturday, April 13, 2013

{Crew Review} Experiment-Based Science with e-Science



One thing I’ve noticed about all of my boys – they love doing science - which means, they love the hands-on, experiment part of science.  When I showed and explained to Luke (grade 4) and Levi (grade 1) the Supercharged Science website and asked if they wanted to review it… well, I should have had earplugs to save my hearing from the resounding whoops and cheers.   

I don’t think you will find a more complete website for an internet-based science curriculum.  Not only does the  e-Science curriculum cover every grade K-12, I cannot think of another science topic that isn’t addressed in this program’s lessons (of course, I’m not a scientist). This subscription service is available at two price points:  K-8 level is $37/month, K-12 is $57/ month.

This seems a bit pricy for our budget, but you need to understand what you are getting:
  • Science experiments and concepts demonstrated on video by a real scientist (Aurora Lipper is a former NASA scientist who also was an instructor at California Polytechnic State. She graduated with her masters in engineering with a 4.0.  Yeah, she knows her stuff.
  • over 800 science experiments demonstrated online for you in over 19 scientific study units/ topics, including (but not limited to):
Electronics
Life Sciences
Chemistry
Energy
Astrophysics
Alternative Energy
Biology 1 & 2
 
  • Besides all the experiments, you’ll get lab supply sheets to help you organize your purchases, textbook-like reading for those who want to go more in depth, instructions in what to write in a lab notebook, and worksheets to use to cement topics or as tests.
  • You’ll also see Ms. Aurora (my name for her with the boys) active on the site.  Although we’ve not had a need to contact her, she actively answers questions from students and parents about successes, failures and discoveries in each science experiment. 
How the program works: When you purchase a subscription, you will have access to 1-2 units of content right away.  This is about 60-80 experiments.  With each month that you are a member, you’ll get access to additional units. According to the website:
“See a unit or two you’d like to do but don’t yet have access to? Just drop us a note and we’ll arrange special access to it for you. You’re the reason we’re here and I really want you to really get all you can out of e-Science.”
For more information on how the program works, check out these links:


After logging in, you will definitely want to watch Ms. Aurora’s short video introduction.  She will explain a bit about how the site works and some of her philosophy for engaging children in science.

Next, pick your unit! The units do not necessarily need to be studied in any order.  Not only are typical science topics presented, but if you are interested in learning about the scientific method or participating in a science fair, Ms. Aurora has included special units. Another interesting unit is Mathemagic, where Aurora helps children connect math to real life as well as using math in some fun ways (like codes and puzzles).

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At the top right of each screen, you’ll see an outline of the components of each unit.  We always started with the “Getting Started” video that Ms. Aurora uses to introduce unit components.  I usually take a quick peak at the Shopping List page to make sure I’ve got the basics for most of the experiments. (You can look at a sample here for Unit 1.)  Then we’re off! 

How We Used The Program:  One of the reasons I wanted to give e-Science a try is because it advocated a more hands-on approach to science.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the experiments (especially when I think ahead and get all the supplies) and love learning along with my kids.  However, my approach is to use the experiment part as the “carrot” to entice my kids along as we complete the reading assignments.  I put the  book-learning ahead of the hands-on learning.

E-Science recommends building a love of science into children by focusing on the hands-on component first.  Aurora recommends that if/ when your student starts asking more questions, then break out the books, online readings and explanations and dig further.  Pretty opposite of the way I do it here, so I was intrigued to break out of my paradigm and try something new.

My plan for e-Science was to use it 3-4 times a week and to follow the boys lead – if we needed more reading, we’d do it; if they wanted to plug away on something else, we’d do that instead.  The only thing I made my guys try first as a starting point was on the Mechanics Unit – a unit about force, gravity and friction.  I thought this would be a simple place to start, and since we’ve done little in elementary physics, I knew they wouldn’t be bored – and they weren’t!

Luke had a blast one afternoon when he and I learned about barrel tunnels.  We followed Ms. Aurora’s suggestion and built one with green cardstock using some origami paper folding techniques.  It held over 5 lbs. before collapsing!
picmonkey supercharged sci

We also learned about gravity, forces, and  friction: 
Photo 11

It was great to see the boys really understanding some of the concepts we were learning about –  really want to investigate.  They spend at least 30 minutes in the hall closet (it was dark) watching infrared rays on different camera LED screens.

Last week, Luke had to serve as the teacher at his science club with three other boys his age.  What a blessing this program was! After spending about two weeks on the topic of Light (boys’ choice), Luke picked out his favorite experiments and shared his knowledge with his class.  I was really amazed at what he remembered just from doing experiments a couple times!  He did a great job explaining about light waves and photons, the main colors of light, and concave and convex lenses.  Silly me, I forgot my camera!

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We did give the readings a try, but when presented with the opportunity to DO science vs. READ about science, my boys definitely got ants in their pants and balked at the reading.  Regardless, I did read through the 13-page document for Lights and Lasers and found it to be written in a very conversational tone in the first person. The reading was broken up by subheadings with many graphic elements to help explain concepts.  It coordinated well with what we had learned in the experiments with Ms. Aurora, so I didn’t necessarily feel like we were missing too much.


My recommendations & thoughts: I asked my boys what they thought of Supercharged Science.  They absolutely LOVE it and do not want to stop using the program.  One of the things we’ll do a better job about is taking Ms. Aurora’s advice and journaling about our science adventures.  I will also plan on using some of her written exercises, especially for Luke (who is finishing 4th grade).

I want to be sure to mention that if you are currently using a science program/ textbook that you like, but you want to really beef up the hands-on component, Conversion Charts for major homeschooling publishers have been created.  Click on the link above and you can how to fold e-Science into your program. 

One thing about my complementary subscription to e-Science:  I was blessed (in a big way) with access to all the units at one time.  Remember, typical subscriptions give you access to several units at a time, and each month more is given to you.  So, I cannot really comment on my experience with this part of the service/ program, but here’s more information about the membership/ cancellation policy

If you are wondering how moms with older (through high school) and younger children used e-Science, click to read more reviews from the School Review Crew!

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