Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Supercharged Science - A TOS Homeschool Crew Review


In March I was delighted to receive access to Supercharged Science's e-Science program.  The Homeschool Review Crew members selected received access to the entire e-Science program for 12 months.

I have long been a fan of Supercharged Science. Through the years, at times I have subscribed to their service. I have a very science-oriented child, and I really want to help him to succeed in his goals in life. I also want to nurture the excitement he has over discovering new scientific phenomena. So this program is a perfect fit for my family. 

Let me suggest you take a few moments to watch a video by Aurora Lipper about e-Science Membership. The next step would be to check out the video at the e-Science HOME page,
Look  at the top of the right side bar, for you to watch first to get you excited about the program. After you see some of the amazing things you kids can do with the program, see the words above the video and click on How This Site Works. At that point you find yourself at a page with another video labeled: "Getting Started". The video is designed for you to watch after you subscribe, but it is also available for you to watch before you join. I opened up a second window to the e-Science page so I could follow her instructions when she would say "click on..." Non-members are able to watch the video, go to the units, and see limited information on each of the units.

By about four minutes into the How This Site Works video you will probably be feeling overwhelmed just listening to it, but that's when Aurora explains that the entire program begins with an introductory Unit Zero to help you get started. The Unit Zero video explains the ten principles students need to know to learn science, and how to present it to them so that it will make sense.
I also found a page where you can see how SuperCharged Science teaches the same information as other publishers, here: Conversion Charts.
If you have now watched the above-linked videos you know about:
  •  the creators of the Supercharged Science's e-Science program;
  •  how to join e-Science;
  •  what aged students e-Science is suitable for (K-12); 
  •  subjects covered in e-Science and how to get access to the units you want; 
  •  what projects in e-Science to do that would be similar to other science programs you might have been thinking about.
Now I want to tell you about my family's experiences with the e-Science program. When I found out I would have the opportunity to review e-Science I was so excited! I've used it before, and loved it. The first time I signed up for e-Science, the program was overwhelming and not as carefully laid out and explained. I found myself paying for it and not using it. After doing free monthly free science lessons, I returned to e-Science and found it improved.
But summer arrived, and I knew we would be using it, so I again unsubscribed. The new school year arrived, and again I subscribed, used it for a few wonderful months, but got busy, so I again unsubscribed.

Now I'm not telling you this to suggest this is the way you should use the program, but rather to tell you that the Supercharged Science people are okay with this approach, which is wonderful when you consider how difficult finances can be for many of us right now. So if you only want to try out one class, they have a free one available for you. If you want to try the program for one month, they run specials at times to get the first month for next to nothing. So I encourage you to give it a try. Do it when you have some time to study the website, when you have time for the "learning curve" you will have.

Now, to some fun stuff. My son was a little less than enthusiastic, when I told him about our fabulous opportunity to review the Supercharged Science e-Science program.  I mean, from his 13-year-old perspective we've tried this program and bombed. I had known this would be his reaction, so I didn't push him; I just planned to excite him and draw him in.

I began in the unit on magnetism on a day after he had his 4-H Advanced Electric Club meeting. I knew he had been learning about magnets, and I couldn't wait to draw him in. I knew that one of the ways to dig into e-Science is to start with the experiments and then do additional learning when the kids want to know WHY something happened. So the next morning, before my son got up for the day, I set up, on the coffee table, and experiment called "Bouncing Magnets". He walked into the living room, looked at the magnets suspended in mid-air, and said, "No way! That's sick!" (Translation: "That's amazing!")

So I explained to him how it worked with the fields of polarity, balancing the repelling fields in just the right way, and he was off with it and set it up in his own way with magnets bouncing on both ends, although with four balancing magnets it doesn't seem to bounce as well as with two. We also moved it to the carpet, to help keep the magnets from sliding, and that may have reduced the bounce. But we made a video of it:

While we were reviewing the program, my son's interests were all over the map. We looked at the Electricity unit after the Magnetism unit, and then looked into the alternative energy unit. My son set up, on his own, a solar powered fan. I have a video of that here as well:



e-Science has a project for making a solar powered boat with the solar powered fan, but my son didn't want to. (After all, it wouldn't work in the bathtub, and there aren't many places around our home to enjoy a solar powered boat outside right now.) 
He seemed done with the solar panels, so I next took a look at the chemistry unit next. He loves it when things react! (Fizz, bubble, pop, explode!) So first I started looking through the experiments listed in the Chemistry area. There were a lot of experiments I couldn't do because I was missing an item, and I remembered that Aurora said to find experiments you already have the materials for, so I searched until I came to an experiment called "Glowing Slime". OOoooooo! I knew JD would like this one. So I got our materials together. (I found a similar video on YouTube, but it does not include any Chemistry instruction.)


Here is our Glowing Slime project. [Sorry if the quality of the video changes; I couldn't find my camera and had to use my cell phone for the video.]
video

As we were finishing our review, the website was not responding. We kept getting a blank screen. I think there were a lot of reviewers trying to access it at the same time. If Supercharged Science gets a lot of new customers out of these Crew e-Science reviews, they may need to upgrade their server to keep up with the demand!

So, I, the mom, love this program. It makes me feel equipped to teach science. My son, the one who hates change and is hard to please, approaches each experiment with, "Aw, why do we have to do that?" and ends the experiment with, "Aw, cool!" He played with that slime for an hour after we finished the video, making and remaking more with the leftover yellow glow-fluid.

Disadvantages to consider, which vary depending upon the level of experiments you are looking at doing:
  • As with any science program you consider using, there is a time element involved in rounding up your materials for your experiments.  The best approach to take, if you can do it, might be to download the shopping list for each unit you are about to tackle, acquire all the materials, and store them in a plastic "Science" bin to pull out whenever you are working on the experiments. I knew I had the materials for the Glowing Slime, but it still took me an hour hunting for the high lighter, the Borax, the glue, the wooden sticks, the disposable cups, etc. Part of that time was also spent looking for the camera, which never turned up, as well as clearing the table, covering it with a table cloth, finding gloves, etc. Because I was filming I incurred additional time issues that the user wouldn't always encounter.
  • Some experiments are safe for the student to tackle on their own, which is great for getting them excited about science. Some of the experiments, though, are better done with supervision. I would not have wanted my son to tackle Glowing Slime without me -- my wood table would have been used unprotected; my carpet would have also received its share of glow-juice, etc. My son also kept saying, "I wonder what this would taste like..." And I had to remind him that the chemical in Borax would be poisonous to consume.
  • Some of the experiments could be difficult to complete safely with little ones in the house. I remember that I had the older siblings take Biology and Chemistry at someone else's house for the very reason that I couldn't keep up with JD when he was a preschooler and I was certain he would get into the lab materials, formaldehyde, chemicals, etc. He has finally reached a place where he will slow down and respect cautions and do experiments safely. I'm so glad!
Other than that, all I can think of are advantages. 
  • This program is created by professional scientists who are excited educators seeking to create an interest in science in kids by presenting it in an exciting, hands-on way.
  • The program is well thought out, presented well, presented incrementally.
  • There is so much information to supplement the hands-on experiments that I am totally looking forward to diving more deeply into each of the experiments we've done so far, as well as ones in the future. There is a chemical reaction that occurs when you combine Borax with glue. The program teaches what the chemical name for Borax is (sodium tetraborate), and the reading section goes into the specifics of polymers like slime. Each experiment has detailed information to supplement the learning from the hands-on time.
  • Learning is easier when the student is interested. The experiments interest my son. He is totally hooked, and I see a lot of learning in store for us.
  • The program has step-by-step experiments that can be completed by the students by themselves (which also can lead to additional experiments which they think of themselves... my personal experience with my son).
  • The program is full of videos of experiments, so the kids can recreate, and some that are too difficult to recreate in the home, so it is a blessing they can watch them in video form.
  • Each part of the program has a comprehensive parent guide.
  • Each chapter has a corresponding textbook that can be printed out or read online, to dive deeper into the content.
  • Tests and quizzes are provided.
  • The program gives instructions to the student for keeping a scientific journal, and then encourages the student to continue this practice for all of his/her scientific activities.
  •  The materials are presented in a unique way that teaches neither creation nor evolution (neither does it contradict either view) so that it does not offend families with either world view.
  • The written materials provide challenging vocabulary words for the students to study/learn.
  • This curriculum is so rich! One peak at the Biology unit textbook and I was already reading about things I had never heard of -- jawless fish? I'm stunned. I can't wait to dive in more deeply myself, with my sad, inadequate public education...
So, roll up your sleeves and get excited! Put old clothes on your kids and get started! This program gets ALL thumbs up from this family!

The Supercharged Science e-Science program is priced at $37/month for the K-8 Grade Level program and $57/month for the K-12 Grade Level program. The more children you have using the program, the more economical it is, because it is a family rate, not a per child rate! When you subscribe to the high school level materials, you get all grade levels.

Final word, if you didn't pick this up yet, I just LOVE  Supercharged Science's e-Science!

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