2016 Aquarium Science Classes

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This is our fourth year attending science classes at Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg. It’s a bit shocking for me to write that, but it’s true. Four years already? At first, it was only my son and I going there. My mom was living with us at the time and she kept my daughter, age three at the time.

Boy and girl at Ripley's Aquarium

Before the class, they look at the fish.

The following year, they each attended their own class, but soon the Preschool class was canceled and my daughter joined my son in the K-2 class. Last year, they were perfectly matched to the K-2 class, as my son was in second grade and my daughter in Kindergarten. Continue reading »

This year, we had to make a decision: do we put them in K-2 or 3-5? The curriculum is different from last year. They change teachers and curriculum every year at Ripley’s, so that was not the issue. The issue was, should we challenge the little one or bore the older one?

Boy and girl touch jelly fish at Ripley's Aquarium

Touching the jelly fish

We decided to challenge our daughter, who is in first grade this year, and allow our son to study on his grade level. So they are both in the class for Grades 3-5.

They have already had one class (September). The new teacher did a great job and the kids had no problem following the presentation, answering questions, participating in class, and performing the experiment.

Children performing an experiement

Experiment after the lecture

They learned about different science disciplines and the scientific method. It’s a great beginning and we look forward to the rest of the year. My son has been scoring very high in science in his nationally standardized test every year so we must be doing something right in our homeschool. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.


Science4us.com Review

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Here we are again, talking about science. Science4us.com is a wonderful online curriculum for K-2 which can also be used in grades 3rd-5th for review of key concepts. It was developed in 2010 and has since received several awards. The Department of Education gave them a grant for game-based learning innovation and they used it well.

Science4us.com activity

Science4us.com activity

This is an online curriculum so once you pay ($7.95 per month) they will send you login information and you are good to go. Once logged in, you can choose from four books: Life, Physical, Inquiry, and Earth/Space. Inside each book, you will find different modules which can be picked up in random order. Once inside a module though, you should start from the top left and work your way down through the activities in order.  Continue reading »

Science in the early grades can be a liberating subject, because you really don’t have to do it. As such, there is no guilt on the days when you did not do it. And when you do do it, it’s fun for the kids and you feel like a superhero. When you do math in K-6 grades, you are actually doing science, because math is the basis for scientific equations.

Boy and girl working on computers

Working on different levels of science4us.com

I have reviewed this curriculum once before, two years ago. My children were 5 and 3 at the time. They are now 7 and 5. I thought it might be interesting to watch how they interact with an online course and the content of a science course at their new level.

It turns out, they could no longer stay on the same level, on one computer. Two years ago, the three-year-old was happy to watch and learn. Now, she wanted to do her own clicking, circling, matching and so on. So we had them work on two separate computers.

Science4us.com activity

Another science4us.com screen up close

This curriculum comes in handy especially if you have to give one-on-one attention to your students. I found it very helpful when my young one “did school” with science4us.com while I worked with my oldest.

The activities are interactive but short lectures do get presented from time to time, teaching young kids to sit through a small theoretical explanation. I have only found one game which is nothing but a game. The rest of the material serves an educational purpose and does not feel like a game per se. It is however very colorful and easy to navigate.

Robots walk the kids through the different modules. They even have exercises in alphabetizing, taking notes, and spelling. There is a final test at the end of each module, but throughout the module there are small quizzes to check for understanding. If the answer is not correct, there is a button to push for the concept to be repeated.

I have my own interface, as a teacher, and can see which modules they covered, their test results and how much time they spent online. This curriculum can be used in a large classroom, obviously, or in a small homeschool. If you don’t like teaching science or doing experiments in the kitchen, investing in science4us.com would be a great idea.

The opinions expressed here are my own. I received a free subscription to science4us.com in exchange for my honest review of this product on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review. I was not compensated in any other way. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.


Ripley’s Aquarium Science Classes

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We have been attending science classes for homeschoolers at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies for three years now. The first year, I left my daughter home with my husband and took my son to the class. He was in kindergarten. He got bored in the beginning. He told me he would like to leave once or twice. I sent him back to his seat and told him nicely that he will need to wait until craft time. Eventually, I brought her along and she sat next to me, taking in the atmosphere, the vocabulary, the experience.

The class has two parts: a Power Point presentation and a craft project. They have changed teachers once and both teachers have been top notch.

NaBloPoMo2015

For the first time, I am posting every day for a month.

Because parents stay in the classroom, sometimes there are younger siblings who make noises. Once, it got really loud. There were a few too many toddlers around. That was the only time that I saw stress on the teacher. It was also the largest class I have ever seen – about 40 people were in the room.  Continue reading »

The second year, my son was in first grade and my daughter in pre-Kindergarten. They offered a preschool class so we attended it for my daughter and then we stayed on for my son’s class. The preschool class fizzled out after a couple of sessions. They just did not have enough students to participate. I was glad they canceled it, because it made for a long day at the Aquarium. Too long. Also, because they used to give them a sugary snack, which made the class even more expensive ($5.5)than the K-2 class my son attended ($2.20). Those are the prices for people with annual passes, by the way.

After they cancelled the preschool class, I simply paid for my daughter to attend the K-2 class alongside my son. Why not? She is a rather mature child. Even though she got bored a couple of times, she made it through and understood the routine. She wanted me to sit next to her and I did. She learned to wait patiently for craft time.

The third year, which is this one, I finally have both of them situated properly. She is in Kindergarten and he is in second grade – perfect for the K-2 class. The lectures range from the history of marine biology to stream ecology to aquatic invertebrates and many others. The crafts are easy to make by young children and involve painting or gluing or stamping – the whole range.

I will have to figure out what to do for next year: advance my daughter to the class for Grades 3-5? Or keep my son in her class one more year, even though he will be in Grade 3? I will have to talk to the teacher about it. It’s just too long for us to be in the Aquarium for two classes and I understand it is pretty much the same presentation but maybe with a different craft or more details.