Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Science4Us.com Online Subscription {Crew Review}

 

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Science4Us.com Online Subscription is an online science program developed by the folks from Vocabulary Spelling City.  Designed as a monthly subscription service ($7.95/ student per month), the founders hope to encourage a love of science and STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) in early elementary aged students.

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The program is divided into 4 “books” of spheres of science study:

Inquiry:


  • Science Tools
  • Think Like a Scientist

Earth/ Space:

  • History of Earth
  • Materials

Physical:

  • Materials and Mixtures
  • Observing Matter
  • States of Matter
  • Changes in Matter
  • Features
  • Weather
  • Exploring the Universe
  • Earth In Space
  • Energy Sources
  • Light Energy
  • Heat Energy
  • Sound Energy
  • Electrical Energy
  • Energy Transformations
  • Location and Perspective
  • Motion
  • Force
  • Magnets
  • Simple Machines

Life:

  • Living/ nonliving
  • Plants
  • Animals
  • Food webs
  • Habitats
  • Eco Awareness

(click on each of the four headers to learn more about the content of each topic)

You can view demos of the module lessons, and find scope and sequence for kindergarten science lessons, first grade science lessons, and second grade science lessons.  If you would like to use it with an older student, Science4Us.com Online Subscription has suggestions for grades 3rd – 5th review.

How the program works:

Registration: Because this was a review product, I wasn’t able to register myself or my son for use of the product, so I cannot really comment how easy it is to navigate the set-up of the program.  Levi and I were given log-in IDs and passwords – I’m hopeful that individual subscribers are able to select their own information.  One thing that is missing, however, from the account management is the ability to change log-in names and passwords – especially if you’ve forgotten one or both of them!

Getting Started: Once logged in, there is an abundance of information on how to use the features of the program.  You will definitely need to set aside some time to familiarize yourself with the site and learn how to set up assignments, what resources are available in lesson modules, and so forth. 

Here is a partial screen shot of the teacher’s login page.  I’ve highlighted two HUGE helps – a quick “featured resources” on the right hand side, which provides reminders about tools to help organize your teaching – and the Teaching Tools tab at the top of the screen.  This is primarily where I go to create assignments and see progress.

log inscience4Us daily flow

Once I’ve picked a topic for Levi to study, I can learn a lot about the module by previewing each daily online session.  The top section (1) provides a summary of what the student will do in the lesson.  I can preview it by clicking on the session’s avatar (the orange circle) or learn about the Engage segment in general by watching a video.  Part (2) gives me some grade-specific information about the material in the form of a PDF that can be printed.  The final part (3) usually involves printable activity that I could print off for Levi if I wanted. 

At the very bottom, you can see 8 pages to scroll through – each one is a daily lesson.  Thus, each module (there are a total of 29 module topics) can be completed in 8 days, or less than two weeks.

Lessons: Science4Us.com Online Subscription uses the 5E inquiry-based instructional model (video about this science curriculum model here).  The modules contain three main science-teaching sessions called Engage, Explore, and Explain.  There is online content in the form of a short video + an interactive component. A lot of the interactive components are collected into a student notebook – an online journal of sorts that saves screenshots of the child’s work. 

The remaining sessions – Elaborate -incorporate math and/ or reading and vocabulary skills.  One of the sessions that I love is the “SillyBulls” session.  New vocabulary words are presented (but not defined) in syllables and students must reassemble them.  Other Elaborate tasks include:

taking notes
definitions/ descriptions
alphabetizing
sorting

Finally, the 8th session is Evaluate – an online multiple choice quiz about the science content and vocabulary from the module.  You do have the option to print off a hard copy instead.

All a students work and progress through the module can be seen in a variety of report options – scores and completion, total minutes per module session, first attempt date, and completion date. 

scores

How the program worked for us:

Levi and I have been using the program for almost six weeks now.  My original intention was to use it systematically, session-by-session and complete several modules of Levi’s choice.  I created assignments that only allowed him to do one or two sessions at a time.  I loved that I could, then, pace everything out and prevent him from working ahead of me, because I knew once I turned him loose on the computer he would run past me.

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And that is exactly what has happened. He took off and ran with it!  Levi is able to complete the online portions of each module in about an hours time.  He has logged over 22 hours of learning with the program.  However,  This is not meant to be an online-only science program. When I do make Levi slooooooow down and use the program appropriately {meaning we sit together and discuss some of the content}, it forces him to use vocabulary and express himself and gain deeper understanding than just plopping him in front of a screen and consuming information.

Now, I’m not  a big fan of busy work, so some of the worksheets are things that Levi and I have scrolled through and answered together.  For some reason, I’ve got three boys who are good readers, but who are really bad at syllabication, so I torture Levi by making him build science vocabulary with SillyBulls (no, it is not tortuous and takes us less than 10 minutes to finish the session, but you’d think I was pulling his teeth without anesthesia!  I actually think SillyBulls is very creative and a great idea).

In a perfect world where I had a lot of time on my hands, I would use Science4Us.com in combination with some of the science books I have on hand – and I know the library would be a big help, too.  I’d also like to pull out some real science experiments and get hands-on. This would make Science4us.com Online Subscription a more substantial science program – closer to the type of program that I typically use with my kids.  I just don’t think science can be fully enjoyed by an online program alone.

From a teacher/ homeschool management standpoint – I did feel like there were some aspects that were annoying to manage.  For example, to check my son’s progress, I had to open each of the modules individually in the “Reports” section to see if he had completed the assignments I’d given to him.  That meant I needed to be a better off-line record keeper of which modules I’d assigned him and when.  Maybe that is just me having a terrible memory!

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My recommendations & thoughts:

I think there is a lot of potential with this product to be used to help supplement a science program for lower elementary students.  Although we are not quite using it as I’d like right now, we’ve gotten pretty close to using the program as it was designed (except that stinker of a son keeps working too far ahead of me).  Levi really LOVES Science4Us.com as a second grade science curriculum.   

To connect with Science4Us.com Online Subscription, check out:

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 


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