Sunday, April 14, 2013

TOS Review: Supercharged Science

Josiah and I recently got to review the e-Science program from Supercharged Science.

My favorite science class might or might not have been in 7th grade. And it might or might not have been because I sat right behind Eddie Maxwell. And he might or might not have been the cutest guy in my school.

I was never a very good science student. My interests lie more with history, literature and creative arts and music. I was far more interested in stories and people than the ”how and why” of things. I realize now that the manner in which science was presented to me had something to do with that. Dry lectures and worksheets were a sure way to send me into day dream land in which I could imagine I was a swimming with mermaids (generally not found in North Central Arkansas) or a suffering governess trapped in a castle by a maniacal Baron with only hair pins and my wits to save me.

When I got to college it wasn’t much better (though I had moved on to daydreaming about my hefty “to-do” lists). My favorite science class wound up being Science For Teachers. We spent the semester creating hands on projects that we could later use in the classroom. The criteria was that they needed to be engaging, informative and inspiring. I knew realized when I presented my ocean in the bottle project to my fellow future teachers that I didn’t have to teach science the way I had always been taught.

 I knew I would love Supercharged Science the first time I watched this video of Aurora Lipper explaining the e-Science program. Aurora is engaging, passionate…in that brief video she motivated me to just be a better teacher. So when we had a chance to review the program I jumped at it. I think I have had as much fun (or more) than Josiah.

How It Works and How I Used It

The Supercharged Science site is massive and there is so much information I would like to share with you. However, I do need to keep this post at a reasonable length, so I will share the basics of the program and tell you a little about my favorite parts.

The beauty of the e-Science program is that it can be used as a stand-alone program or as a supplement. It is structured enough for systematic study or you can freestyle it all the way. It can be used for self-study or parents can guide their kiddos through the wonders of science.

I first wanted to find a few easy experiments to help ‘whet’ Josiah’s science whistle. While I would have loved to browse through the 900 experiments (!), it’s  helpful that there is a whole list of easy experiments to let your student jump right in.  

What you need to know first is that there are many levels to Supercharged Science. They have created it to be appealing and beneficial to all kinds of learners. Sure. There is textbook reading and writing assignments available. But my very favorite part are Aurora’s teaching videos (no boring or dry lectures found here) and then the lists and lists of experiments. Most come with an explanatory video.

We first began with the Microwave Soap experiment. And man! Wouldn't you know it didn't do exactly what it was supposed to! Something happened, that's for sure, but not the "wow" factor we were hoping for. But what was so great was that we were able to talk about why are experiment might not have worked as well as it could have. The soap was old? And possibly had an additive in it (maybe aloe?) so that it effected the results.

It didn't matter that our soap didn't expand into a glacier.(looked more like the the nasty snow that piles up after the snow plows have been by...only it was green). Josiah was so intrigued by this particular experiment that I knew I needed to follow that trail. In fact, I had listened to a “talk” Aurora gave on how to teach homeschool science. One of her recommendations was that you start first with your child’s interests and passions. You are then able to teach the science behind it.

I wasn’t surprised that Josiah enjoyed the soap experiment (for one, who wouldn’t?) He has had a fascination with different kinds of matter ever since he found he could freeze army and Lego men in water when he was a tiny guy.

So I found the Unit on Matter (which happened to be Unit 3).

The Units for Supercharged Science can be found in one location. While I was allowed access to all of the units (20+), a regular subscriber receives access to several Units initially and then 1-2 units a month after that. Don’t fret. They also make it pretty clear to drop them a line if your kiddo is dying to try a unit you don’t have access to. There is even a unit on fabulous science projects.

I am giving you a screen shot of what how a unit is set up. The layout of each unit is simple. The sidebar contains all the links you will need to complete the lesson. You can see that Unit 3: Matter has 2 lessons. The first is on Atoms and Density. The second covers Solids. Each lesson is divided up between reading, experiments, As recommended we dove straight into the experiment portion. There is also a teleclass (mp3) that we downloaded. Sounds like good car listening to me!

This was our Lava Lamp experiment. So much fun! Josiah had such a good time with this on he wanted to repeat it so he could show his daddy.

This experiment is called Pile It On. Josiah chose a number of small items to weigh. He was ready to weigh everything after this on. There is a terrific section on creating a Scientific Journal. I found a few pre-made graphic organizers and Josiah recorded his data, observations, etc. He was pretty proud of his finished product. I have mentioned that Josiah is dyslexic and also struggles with his handwriting. I have shied away from Science Journaling for this very reason. I discovered, however, that creating a science notebook has actually helped him keep track of his own thoughts and observations. I look forward to continuing this practice. 

We are in the process of growing crystals. Our crystals are a little slow growing. I'll share Josiah's finished product another time.

So let’s say you are going through a season in life that to immerse your child into a whole unit is downright overwhelming. Or maybe there are specific principles that are just not getting through. There is this section. Need Help Teaching the Basics? Yes, Please! These are quick and easy lessons intended to demonstrate the basics of physical science. So, on those days that I can’t find my keys, my library books or most of my brain I can use these. Which is more often than I would like to admit.

This was my favorite. Even I got this one!

“Objects at rest stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force: Place an object on the floor and wait very carefully for it to move on its own. Ready for more action? Kick it… and there’s your external force. (This is the first law of physical motion.)”

Josiah had a little help from the cat. 

Three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas: Grab a can of soda. The tin can is the solid, the drink is the liquid, and the bubbles are the gas.
We never have pop in our house. I bought this can specifically for this demonstration. He was so excited he spent a few minutes smelling it. Poor kid.

I know that these particular experiments are included in all of the more structured lesson material, but there was a day or two this section saved Science!

I hate to admit this, but this section also put science in a whole new light for me. Instead of SCIENCE (all stuffy and unattainable) it became “science” (aw! Now I see that!).

And Then There is This!

One of the big differences between this program and traditional science curriculums is that there are so many resources available for the homeschool parent. It is like having your own homeschool convention/consultant right at your fingertips.

The Getting Started section not only contained easy experiments and lessons for your student, it also had resources for you as the homeschool teacher. I read this one right away.  Seven Biggest Mistakes Made in Teaching Science. Well, yeah! I don’t want to give away all Aurora’s secrets, but here are 2 of my favorite.

Mistake #2. Give away the ending.
“For real learning that lasts, your child needs to focus on
activities that allow the natural process of discovery,
wonder, and exploration.

Mistake #5. Fear of making mistakes.
“When your young chemist is outside and
accidentally spills the entire jug of vinegar into
your full box of baking soda, just take a breath
and say, “Gosh – I’ll bet you didn’t expect that to
happen. Now what are you going to do?” Make
sure you really feel empathy and interest for
them, or they’ll feel that, too.”

The other topics in the Getting Started section include: What exactly IS science? ,Common Misconceptions and Myths in Science Textbooks Revealed, What does my child really need to learn in science? The Six Keys to Teaching Homeschool Science, Secrets from Successful Teachers ,Easy Steps to Award-Winning Science Fair Projects, How to Motivate Your Child to Learn Science, Keeping a Scientific Journal.

I spent quite a bit of time in the Getting Started Section.

There is also quite an extensive Resource Section. You know you are in good hands when one of the topics found in the Resource section is How to Fix Anything. The student learns Universal Troubleshooting Process, step-by-step. I am going to copy this out for myself! There are favorite book lists, how to pick out good science equipment and even Aurora’s phone number. She takes calls to answer your questions every Wednesday. 

In A Nutshell

I am going to break it down for you. Shew! (I know you are thinking I should have just done this to begin with)

Here are my favorite features of Supercharged Science

  • Fun and engaging

  • Easy to navigate

  • Kiddos can use as a self-guided if need be

  • A lot of the experiments are easy to do and done with easy to find (most everything we had lying around the house) items

  • The resources available for parents are amazing

  • The content is top notch!
To use this program you (obviously) need access to the internet. I used it from a variety of locations (my husband’s desktop, my laptop, my Kindle and Papa and Ama’s computer at their farm). All I needed was my username and password.
 The cost of the e-Science program subscription is $37 a month (K-8) and if you have an older student you can purchase the premium level for $57 a month (K-12). 

And, if this is something you can do, I can’t recommend it enough.

 But don't take my word for it (anybody else love Reading Rainbow?). You can get this Science Activity Video Series and Guidebook For FREE. I believe there are 30 science experiments to get you started. Have fun! 

You can read more reviews here (or click below).

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