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.


Science in the Ancient World Review

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Berean Builders Publishing, Inc. produced Science in the Ancient World by Dr. Jay Wile. It is my privilege to write a review about this elementary science curriculum.

First off, this science curriculum is written by a scientist who is a Christian and believes in Creation, not evolution. Secondly, this curriculum can be used with multiple students on different levels. The review questions are written for three different types of students, from more mature to the youngest ones. As such, this curriculum keeps the family learning together and it exposes the young ones to vocabulary while challenging the older ones to grasp scientific concepts on their grade level.

science in the ancient world

Last summer, I attended a seminar by Dr. Wile regarding the teaching of science in grades K-6. In short, Dr. Wile gave parents permission to skip science and focus on math in these early grades. Why? Because science is all around us and math is the foundation of later studies in science.

Young children will ask questions about animals and plants, stars and planets. If you take them to the library and find books to answer those questions, you have just done science. Nature walks are another way to do science in the early elementary grades, of course. And if your budding scientist keeps a nature journal, that’s all the science you need in grades K-6.  Continue reading »

Having said all that, Dr. Wile proceeded to explain that there are a series of solid science curricula on the market, not just his own. Is it a good idea to schedule formal science lessons in the early grades? Sure. Should you skip science on a day when the 3Rs and laundry and cooking took all your time? Absolutely.

So let me talk to you a bit about this set of two books, called Science in the Ancient World. The textbook is hardcover, while the Helps and Hints volume is softcover. Scientific concepts are introduced using history as a guide. Chronologically, students are moved from one era to the next through cool experiments which reproduce the discoveries of scientists from Thales of Miletus to Leonardo da Vinci.

Science in the Ancient World Helps and Hints

Age groups served would be young elementary grades, approximately K-6, as I mentioned above. If you have preschoolers, they would probably like to watch the experiments, although they should probably be kept away from flames and other potentially dangerous details.

The price for the set is $39 and the two volumes can also be purchased separately. You should seriously consider getting the Helps and Hints, because it has all your answers and, besides, it only costs $4.50.

Since my kids are in first grade and pre-Kindergarten, we skipped the first lesson, which requires multiplication during the math part of the scientific experiment. We had no problem with the next three lessons though. Personally, I don’t read all the text. I find it a bit long for my young children. We go straight into the experiment. Once we get it done, we talk about the science involved. I mentioned the history behind it briefly, maybe show them the picture of the scientist and the region he lived in.

Here are some pictures our experiment from lesson 2, Making Water.

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The candle fogs up the cup, creating water vapors. A side discovery was that, if you put the cup too close to the candle, the candle gets put out, naturally, due to lack of oxygen, which is needed during the burning process.

Next, we learned about how sounds can be higher or lower depending on the length of the string (or rubber band) being plucked. This was part of Lesson 3, Pythagoras. After plucking the rubber bands I mounted on a bowl, I asked the kids to pinch the middle of the rubber bands and pluck again.

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We observed the difference in pitch. We talked about violins and pianos and their different strings.

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Last but not least, we learned how sounds produce vibrations that move things – Lesson 4, called But What Is Pitch? For this, we opened a can at both ends, spread plastic wrap over one end, and secured it with tape. We spread black pepper on the plastic wrap at the top.

I held it high enough for the kids to make sounds under the can from the open end, towards the pepper-covered plastic. One kid was yelling under the can, the other was observing the pepper dance. The higher the pitch, the faster the pepper dance. It was really cool.

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Through this, we learned that sounds are waves, waves which move pepper or anything else, as long as the intensity is high enough. The kids could not stop asking for more experiments after these. I will hear no protests next time I crack open this science book.

Since my children are in a very concrete stage of learning right now, I did not bore them with facts about the scientists. We do study ancient history right now though, so if I see any connections, I will mention them. Older elementary kids could probably handle the historical aspects of this science curriculum.

If you would like more information about how to synchronize this science curriculum with your history curriculum, please check this document.

In conclusion, with experiments like these, science can be taught in grades K-6 even by people like me, who are not exactly science fans.

I received a free copy of this science curriculum in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I received no other compensation, nor was I required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.


Science4Us.com Review

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I have written here before how science is not my cup of tea and how I delegate it as much as I can. One of the ways to delegate science is to buy a Science4Us.com Online Subscription. Science4Us.com has made it easy for me to integrate science in our homeschool routine. I am excited about this product because we have been using it in our homeschool for the past couple of months and it has helped me so much.

Not only has it given me hope that yes, I can actually homeschool even though I don’t like teaching science, but it has also given me time. You see, the children tutor themselves through a series of interactive activities on the computer screen and I have time to myself. Don’t get too excited. It’s not uninterrupted time. In fact, I am in the same room, doing things that allow me to pay attention to what they are learning. Why? Because there are discussion questions and, as my son reads them off the screen, they expect me to lead the discussion.

The kids are watching one of the short video presentations on science4us.com

The kids are watching one of the short video presentations on Science4Us.com

But at least I get some housekeeping items out of the way while they homeschool. When was the last time you swept the floor or checked your emails while your children were learning? One must remember my children are three and six. As such, they need a lot of hand-holding throughout their learning activities. But not with Science4Us.com.

I think it also prepares them for the future, when they will walk themselves through new material and only come to me with questions. At least, that’s the future I envision and hope for.

The online subscription, which is only $7.95 per child per month, allows you access to the full curriculum which consists of four books of science – Inquiry, Physical Science, Life Science, and Earth/Space. Each book breaks down into units, which break down into modules. There are 28 modules total in Science4Us.com. For my children, it takes about one hour to finish a module. They are not bored and it goes by fast.

If you were to follow their lesson plans and if you had a larger group of students, each module would take two weeks to teach in 30-minute increments. This curriculum was designed for either a classroom setting or a homeschool setting. So you make it your own.

This is what we do: my son is six and he handles the laptop. My daughter is three and she just sits there, watching it all unfold and learning by osmosis. Pun intended. We log in and I let them choose whichever module they want to do. He walks them through the screens, which are interactive and intuitive. Now and then they ask for help and I am right there, so I help.

Science4Us Review
I have not used their lesson plans because I feel the material they cover through the online lessons and our offline discussions and activities is plenty for my children’s age. By the way, Science4Us.com is geared toward grades K-2, but children in grades 3-5 can also use it as a thorough review of prior knowledge.

If you were to use all the teacher materials provided, you would do a thorough job of teaching science. They give you a description of each lesson, core concepts covered, essential vocabulary and even professional development in the form of videos or a PDF. So even if you are shaky on some of the subject matter, the professional development area for each lesson plan will equip you to teach with confidence.

Each module is structured according to the 5-E instructional model. Thus, you will have Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate. Engage is the part where the students activate prior knowledge, so that the new concepts will be connected to something they might already know. Through a short video and a quick exercise where they are asked to circle items that give natural light, for instance, they are then ready for a teacher-lead discussion.

Science4Us Review

Explore follows the same pattern: online activities which the students can do on their own, followed by offline discussions and offline activities. Explain represents the core of your lesson and teaching.

Under Elaborate, several activities have been designed to offer not only science instruction, but literacy and math concepts. Silly Bulls is a cute section where children get to break words into syllables (and yes, there are some silly bulls dancing around before and after the section, but it’s brief and almost painless). Take A Note, on the other hand, is where they learn about why and how scientists record their findings. Investigate and Alphabetizing round up this section of the lesson plan.

Finally, Evaluate tests the students. I like how they try to relax the students before taking the quiz, with a cute army of ants who sing while marching. They also say things like, “You already know this. Just show what you know.” This is good preparation for taking more formal tests, in my opinion.

Science4Us Review
I am very proud that my son gets 100% on these tests, often completely on his own. He always wants me there for the quiz though and I have to help him think through the answers sometimes. I don’t mind, because I think that, at his age, he needs to be taught the process of accessing his database of knowledge and working through answering a question.

At this point, my three-year-old daughter sits and takes it all in. She suggests a module now and then and my son obliges, clicking on the right icon. She likes repetition and some of the characters teaching them, so she will ask to repeat an activity.

Again, I think it is perfectly fine for them at this age to have fun with it and enjoy a less structured approach while getting all the benefits of learning. The other day she saw her own reflection in my computer screen and said, “Look, mama, my reflection!” I really like how they add vocabulary painlessly through these Science4Us.com lessons.

You should know that you can log in either as teacher or as student. As a teacher, you have access to your class roster, where you can add or delete students, preview curriculum, assign curriculum to certain students, monitor their progress and see how many minutes they logged in, their notebook entries and their test results. It gets so detailed, you can actually see how many attempts they had at a quiz, what they got wrong, and when they completed the test for the first time.

On their site, you will find some free examples of some of their lessons, which I invite you to take a look at. You don’t really know what a product feels like until you try it out yourself.

Science4Us Review

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