April 8, 2014

Supercharged Science (a curriculum review)

If you have been one of my blog readers since the beginning of the year (at the very least) you have already learned that Science is the subject I dislike the most to teach in our homeschool classroom. I enjoy trying out new curriculum in the effort to find one that is AMAZING and perfect for our family, so I was tickled to receive a 6 month trial of an e-Science Learning Program from Supercharged Science for our family.
supercharged science curriculum review

What is Supercharged Science?


Supercharged Science is an e-Science online science curriculum created to generate a LOVE of science in your children. There are NO textbooks. No boring long ridiculous information about the cosmos. Instead you get fun videos taught by a REAL scientist Aurora Lipper who created this program to spark life back into what she felt could be a dreary field of study. Aurora's passion for science oozes from every part of the curriculum. This program is a COMPLETE science curriculum for ages K-12 and covers the full range of sciences from Astrophysics to Life Science. 

The e-Science Premium Membership is available for $57 per month and grants you access to grades K-12. You get unlimited access to over 900 science activities, experiments and projects. Don't forget the in depth lesson plans, videos, and more! Every video is of real scientists performing real experiments. Something you aren't going to get anywhere else!

How Did We Use the Program?

It was easy to get logged in to the website. Once you pick your log-in names you can start exploring...it's that easy! It is EASY to get overwhelmed though because there is just SO MUCH STUFF! I figured out the best thing to do was to start with the "Getting Started" tab as it helps guide you towards what you might need. I watched the video and it helped me learn how to navigate the site much more fluently.

One of the things I learned right away is that you can navigate the curriculum by either topics or grade levels. You can get a crash course on deciding which way to go by clicking the top right corner of the website that says User Guide
You will be very happy you did as it explains how to use use the curriculum whether by topics or by grade level.

The topics are set up as units of study. 
(I had access to all 20 Units)
So you can choose your lessons based on topics you want to discover. Once you pick a topic you are taken to an overview page which sets up the unit. There is some reading about the topic, a video and then on the right side bar you see the layout for the unit. You can see there is everything from the downloadable material to your unit experiment shopping list! 

The second way you can explore the site is by grade levels. 
It is set up to start from a Pre-K level thru 8th grade. There is also a portion marked Advanced Topics which is for High School students or advanced 5-8th graders. Each grade level is also marked with a summary of the topics within the grade level. 

After looking at both the topics and the grade levels, I decided to go the grade level route and got started by checking out the second grade level.
Second Grade was set up into three scientific concepts: Chemistry, Life Science and Earth Science. From here I can pick which direction I want to explore. Once you choose on of the three primary concepts you are then taken to a page where you have a list of experiments/lessons you can choose from. It's easy to just click through them to see what is involved (even gives a supplies list) before you determine which you want to use. Some of them are more complicated than others, but all are connected to a broader lesson that has it's own readings, experiments & videos, and exercises. You can see this on the right side bar of each lesson. 
By clicking on this you discover more relating to the topic you are investigating...so when doing a broccoli experiment--the topic connects with plants, and you can check out more related lessons or experiments. It's a great way to go with a rabbit trail if your child is really interested in what you are covering.

After exploring second grade for awhile, I jumped over into first grade. I discovered there were several crossover experiments that were the same for each grade. I also discovered that there were a lot of great experiments that actually matched what our "normal" science curriculum would have had us do. So in the end I ended up pulling units and experiments from both grades for us to do.

I really spent the first two days just trying to find my feet on the program. It was hard to figure out where I really wanted to start. My saving grace came in the form of emails. Aurora Lipper--the founder and primary teacher (she's a rocket scientist!!) of the e-Science Program regularly sends out emails. Nearly all of them have miniature experiments that you can try. One of the first such emails came with a pdf called Homeschool Science Activity and Video Series and a Science Experiment Guide. Both of these were full of simple experiments on a few main topics and had the first pdf even had little videos to show HOW to do the experiments included in it. 

This was exactly what I needed to get this ball rolling. Over the first week, we tried out different experiments between the two documents. I think the favorite experiment were the "weird" airplanes out of index cards and straws and when we made helicopters from an index card and popsicle sticks.
supercharged science curriculum review
This brought a great amount of fun for BOTH boys. I liked that each experiment also came with parent guided simple lesson and questions relating to it.

After we explored these mini experiments we tackled some of the bigger ones. When I was ready to get a lesson set up, I just followed these simple steps:
1. Find the experiment I wanted to do. 
2. Look at the list of supplies and get them together
3. Set up the video for Little Britches to watch. Nearly every experiment comes with one. The lesson is touched on, and then the experiment is performed so they can see what will be done.
4. Go for it!

Once the experiment is completed, there are usually questions included with the experiment that I was able to run through with Little Britches. Some experiments had printable forms with tables or charts that could be filled out. 

Let me give you an example of one of the fun experiments we did...

We studied the concept of vibrations and frequency found in the First Grade Physics unit. To start with I opened up the experiment "What is Frequency?" In the right side bar I found the lesson materials for further learning. So I clicked the "Vibration Introduction" which opens up a lesson video. Little Britches watched this as his introduction to the subject. The teacher (Aurora!) gave an excellent breakdown on what makes vibrations and what frequency was. She even gave them time to go try out what she was teaching them--for instance, I had to turn on the radio as loud as we could handle so he could FEEL the vibration of the sound. He paused his video, came in and had me do what "my teacher says", then he went back and continued his video--until it told him to try something again. Once the video was over he had a great beginning lesson on the subject we were covering.

Next up is a reading portion--it is available as a printout which I loved because I could read thru it in advance to determine what he would or wouldn't get and make revisions to "simpler" language. There is a LOT included in the readings which makes it great for multi-level students and why it can be included in more than one grade level.

After the reading, we move on to the experiments/videos. Here we have access to ALL the experiments relating to the subject...this time Vibrations. Scrolling down I can view all of them in one spot and decide what I'm going to choose. I chose a simple experiment (Mystery Pitch) and then a more detailed one "What is Frequency?".

Every experiment is explained very simply. And with the videos to match, you can see EXACTLY what you have to do--even though they give detailed numbered directions to read. This was highly beneficial as during this experiment I wasn't quite getting the results expected based on the directions. I watched the video and *viola* easily discovered where I was doing it wrong.

In this experiment we were learning about hertz using a simple pendulum and counting it's swings. Adjusting the length of our string changed the hertz. 

Once the experiment was finished, we discussed what we had learned. Once I had done whatever experiments I wanted to do with Little Britches within the unit, and after we had finished the reading of the lesson, we could move on to the exercises. These are simply questions about what you learned (a total of 18). They can be printed out to keep in a science notebook, or done orally. We opted to do them orally. The best part? The answers are included right below for easy reference!

This method of use of the e-Science Learning Program can then be used for each and every lesson that is done. It's easy to see how one lesson can span the course of a week. We wanted to explore different things, so we jumped around a LOT.

One other benefit of having a membership, is that you get an email whenever Aurora is going to have a LIVE webinar class! We were able to do two of the three that occurred during our review weeks. They were very easy to participate in. You simply registered right of the link included in the email, and they gave you a link that could be used on the day of the webinar. They also sent you a reminder email. Then simply click the link the day of and you are set! We were able to enjoy one on renewable energy and one on astronomy. Each one was an hour long and gave excellent information about the topic. There was also a place on the webinar screen where you could write in with questions that she would address at the end of the session. These were highly enjoyable by both boys and myself. Little Britches is a visual and auditory learner so these webinars really stick with him.
An extra aspect to the curriculum is that there is also a space on the website called Scientific Journal. Here Aurora explains why a journal is so important to a scientist and gives many ideas on what to put in it. She also shares how you can turn it into a form you could hand in if your state has Science requirements. In this section she also shares detailed instructions on how to write a Science Journal Report--this is all incredibly valuable information and things that will stick with them far beyond their years in homeschool science! We did not use this, but it is something I will use in the future.

Here are some more photos of some of the fun we had with Supercharged Science...
supercharged science curriculum review

What Did Little Britches Think?

I asked him and he said "It is awesome! I really liked it. I can't tell you why, except that I love that it's hands-on." When asked what he thought about the video portions, he said "They were really easy to understand and they did it in a fun way. And I could see what the experiment was going to do before we did it so I didn't screw it up."

And last but none the least--"Oh and I LOVED burning leaves. THAT was the best experiment ever!" I admit...this was one of my favorites too. It was called "Fire and Optic" and part of the Unit 6 Astrophysics/Lesson 7 Astronomy area--I sort of stumbled onto it. I don't think it was even included in the first or second grade areas. He learned how to start fires with a magnifying glass--which lead to HOURS of experimentation for the next two days. And yes, there may have been several random bugs who lost their lives. Oh and the dog MIGHT have gotten burned on the nose. LOL!
supercharged science curriculum review

What Are My Thoughts on the Curriculum?

Pros:
*Easy to navigate
*Easy to use with multiple ages
*Parent Friendly
*Complete science curriculum covering the full spectrum of sciences from chemistry to life science to astrophysics
*Videos for instruction that are fun and kid-friendly
*Videos that lay-out the experiments step-by-step
*Printable lesson materials including supply lists, readings, and exercises
I can print out all the information in advance to plan!
*Experiments galore! Perfect for the hands-on science lover!
*Experiment supplies include a lot of items you have around the house
*Unit Supply Lists
*Free LIVE webinars
*Regular emails from Supercharged Science with extra experiments to try

Cons:
*Prep work: 
The parent DOES have to do quite a bit of the prep work--especially for the younger grade levels. You need to make sure you have all the supplies that are needed. Have anything printed out chart or table wise. Younger children need a lot of help with actually performing the experiments as many require cutting, burning, or other things that they aren't able to do on their own.

*Supplies: 
While a LOT of the supplies I did have on hand, for some of the bigger experiments, I DIDN'T have them on hand, nor do I have access to them anywhere in my small town. This was especially true for various hardware or chemical compounds. Remember that I'm almost 30 miles even from the closest Wal*Mart. It's one of those cons of living so far out in the country. That being said, I will add that if I KNEW I needed something far enough in advance, I could probably find a way to pick it up or have my husband pick it up on his way home from work each week when he comes home. But again--that is a something that goes with the first con I had--the prep work involved.

*Online Curriculum: 
I admit it honestly. I am a fan of PAPER curriculum and there are only a few times when I would prefer an online curriculum. In the case of science I REALLY like having something in my hands to reference without having to be tied to the computer, if I have to be involved as a parent. I was VERY thankful that there were so many printables available, because this gave me something I could carry with me to reference. But again--that goes back to con #1 regarding prep work. You have to go online, find what you need, make sure you can print it out and do it. So you need to make sure you printer is working, you have the paper and the ink.

*Price:
Let's keep it real. Most of us don't have $57/month just for one subject of curriculum. There is also a $37/month for the grade range of K-8. This may work much better into your budget if you have children this age. But you know, that price might be out of your price range too...especially if you are going with FRUGAL choices. I know that this program would usually be out of my range financially (regardless of which version I purchased) if I hadn't been blessed with this review. But let's say you have 3+ kids. You need a curriculum that is a "one size fits all"? This will do it. You could teach ALL of them with one curriculum. If you take that into consideration, the pricing isn't (as) painful. You have one curriculum that you can do with all of them regardless of where they are in their grade level/learning level! But for one student? Or even 2 students? No. I don't think it's feasible unless you REALLY have a science lover. Then it might be worth it to you to give them something like this.

In summary, I loved so much about this program. The lessons were all extremely well done. I learned almost as much as my son did. My Little Britches just ate everything up. The experiments were varied and awesome. But I frankly DREADED prepping for it each week. I literally had to FORCE myself to do it. I really think that had it been split between videos and a paper curriculum I would have liked it more, because I would have only needed to use the computer for the videos. It is promoted by the company that you can give your children the supplies and they can make the experiment happen by watching the video---well, maybe in the higher grade levels. But not really with the elementary...at least not with us. Not to mention there were several times when the parent had to DO the experiment because of the chemicals or other materials that were being used. I had to be there every step of the way (except for the video watching) to get the experiments completed. I don't mind if this is the case for some of them...but the whole program is pretty much like this. 

Would I Recommend Supercharged Science to Others?

I absolutely would recommend Supercharged Science to others...but with the disclaimer about the prep-work and of course the price. I know there are a lot of homeschool moms like me, who don't have a lot of time to prep for science (including tracking down the supplies) who would probably respond the way that I did. But in the long run, the prep work WAS worth it because of the smile on Little Britches face as the experiment was being done or the results were revealed. And really, once we did the experiments I was ALWAYS glad that I had done it. 
I KNOW this is the kind of curriculum he needs...so I need to figure out how to make it work for us (ie. me!) I think that using this in the future, I will go with choosing based on topics rather than grade levels, as I think that will be easier for me to do. It's an excellent program and one that I think is well worth the cost--IF you have more than one or two students needing a science curriculum. If money is an issue, then no...this isn't the curriculum for you.

If you are looking for an excellent science curriculum that includes the full spectrum of science courses, you really should check out the e-Science Learning Program from Supercharged Science! If you are still curious, make sure you sign-up to receive a FREE copy of the Science Activity Video Series and Guidebook. It's what helped me kick off my discovery in this great curriculum.

As a SUPER SPECIAL deal, Supercharged Science is allowing us to offer you a chance to have access to their e-Science Program for just $1.00. Yes, you read that right--for just ONE DOLLAR you will get access to the same curriculum as what I reviewed for one month! Please take advantage of this deal--you own't regret it! 

Here is one last video for you to enjoy...

Yes, that's silly old me. What can I say, we BOTH enjoyed that experiment and I just had to join in! Just wish I'd put the camera at a different angle! LOL!

You can find Supercharged Science on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and also on their blog. I hope you will go learn more about them...and if you want to hear some other opinions, why not check out what my fellow Schoolhouse Review Crew members have to say about it?!

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2 comments:

  1. Your explaination for how to get going with it is right on. Love the arrows to show where to find things. And the videos. What fun!

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