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.

Go Science DVDs Review

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Recently, we received two of the seven Go Science DVDs (Series 2) from Library and Educational Services. What follows is a review of DVD 4 – Motion, Friction, Electricity, Light – and DVD 7 – Engineering, Design, and Flight – , as well as a general overview of this set and the experience my children had while watching.

Ben Roy, a science professor from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, recorded different science experiments for a children’s program on a Christian satellite TV station. Later on, he put them together in these DVDs. Continue reading »

The result is great because he had a live audience watching and participating and anticipating the result of the experiment (the scientific method at work). Children range from preschool age to tweens in his audience, which is pretty much the age recommended for these DVDs: 4-12.

Go Science DVD Set

The titles are as follows:

DVD 1 – Sound, Gravity and Space

DVD 2 – Life Science, Weather, and Light

DVD 3 – Air

DVD 4 – Motion, Friction, Electricity, Light

DVD 5 – States of Matter and Water

DVD 6 – Chemistry

DVD 7 – Engineering, Design, and Flight

The whole set costs $59.82. Each DVD costs $8.97. One must create an account with Library and Educational Services in order to take advantage of these whole-sale prices.

By the way, Library and Educational Services offers so many other products, you will probably refer to their site over and over again. I think it’s great that they offer these discounts to homeschoolers.

I have to tell you that once you turn these DVDs on, you cannot stop. I was going to do only 30 minutes at a time initially, but when I saw how much the children enjoyed it and how quickly time seemed to go by, I let them watch one whole DVD in one sitting. The next day, we watched the other one.

Library and Educational Services

My four-year-old daughter enjoyed watching the DVDs right along her big brother, who is six. They made predictions, clapped, and shouted YESSS or NOOO when Ben Roy asked his studio audience a question. In that sense, watching the DVDs can be interactive.

Each experiment is a separate video clip, not longer than five minutes. I like that format because the children do not have time to get bored. Also, because it feels like you cover a lot of material (because you do!) but in less time.

The videos follow the same format, too, which helps with predictability and routine. Children like to know what to expect. By the third video, my children knew that the experiment was over and Mr. Roy was going to draw a spiritual lesson out of it. They started talking over him – they were more excited about things exploding, spilling, or breaking, than about the spiritual application. But that’s OK, they still caught some of what he was saying.

Mr. Roy ends every video bit with “You know, children, when you learn more about science, you learn more about the Creator, GOD!” If your children just get this sentence as a principle for their education, you have accomplished a great deal in your homeschooling efforts by watching these DVDs.

Even though I believe low-tech educational experiences are superior to the ones involving my children staring at a screen, I have to say these DVDs are a great addition to my homeschool. I can think of those low-energy days when I just can’t seem to get it together. I could pop one of these DVDs into the DVD player and cuddle up with my children (or stay away, if need be).

They have just been shown some amazing tricks (I mean, science experiments), I get some rest, and the voice of my conscience has been silenced because they are “doing school” and learning a lot. There is something to be said about delegating my children’s education to somebody else for one hour at a time, now and then.

But, first and foremost, these DVDs can be used as a science curriculum supplement. Also, if your child needs a cool Science Fair Project idea, you have plenty to choose from in these DVDs – for different levels of maturity and courage.

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