Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Supercharged Science

We had the wonderful privilege of reviewing the e-Science Premium Membership from Supercharged Science through The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. For this review we received a 6 month premium membership to the entire Science Learning Space.

What is Supercharged Science? It is a complete online scientific world for children created by Aurora Lipper, a real life rocket scientist! Aurora passionately strives to teach scientific methods and principles to students through a jam-packed website full of ideas and experiments.

What age range is it suited for? Supercharged Science is appropriate for Kindergarten through twelfth grade students, and specifically targets homeschool students who need a complete science curriculum.

How is Supercharged Science set up? When a student signs up and first logs on, they will be greeted with a home page that looks something like this:

As you can see from this example, there is a lot available to choose from. It can be very overwhelming when first joining. In the upper right corner is a video and "getting started" section that gives step by step instructions for working through the program. 

Are all scientific disciplines covered?  This can be used as a complete curriculum that covers all areas of scientific study. There are basic "getting started" units that teach the student how to form a hypothesis, the value of the scientific method, and keeping a science journal. As the student works through the levels, new units are unlocked and made available on a monthly basis. (Although if there is an area that you need to study and it is not yet open to the student, this can be changed by emailing Aurora and asking for access to the desired unit). There are twenty complete units (with 60-80 experiments each) that cover these topics: mechanics, motion, matter, energy, sound, astrophysics, light, chemistry, electricity, magnetism, alternative energy, thermodynamics, electronics, life science, biology, and earth science. 

Bonus features: There is also a Mathemagic unit, a Science Fair projects unit, and a teacher resources unit. The teacher helps alone are extremely helpful and necessary. So many students 'hate' science and do poorly, because they just are not inspired to see how interesting it can be. Aurora is able to transfer her enthusiasm for science into the videos as well as into the parent/teacher instructional helps. For "non-science" parents trying to teach their children at home, her easy methods and helps are extremely valuable. 

What does a typical lesson look like? When a unit is selected, there are several different resources available. Since I have used this program with two very different children, I was able to see that not everything needs to be done in the same order. A typical lesson has introductory materials, both reading and video. MP3 downloads are also available. There will be a list of needed supplies for the experiments (which are mostly items you will find around the house, with the exception of some of the more intricate chemistry and electronics supplies), as well as pdf lessons to download for the student to complete. Depending on the student, some like to watch the videos first and see what happens, before completing the experiments and working through the worksheets. Others like to study the concepts first through the worksheets and reading, then complete the experiments afterwards.  This program allows the flexibility for you as a parent to figure out what method works best for your own children. 

New for this year: You may recall that we reviewed Supercharged Science last year. During last year's review, I focused on high school work with my older kids. This year, I decided to see how my 3rd grader did with the program. I was thrilled to find that Supercharged Science not only has the topics listed by unit but also added a page where topics are organized according to grade level. While there is still a lot of freedom to choose what to study in the grade level itself, I found this made choosing topics and getting started much easier, when I did not have to sort through piles of experiments to find ones that I thought my 3rd grader could grasp. Here is the 3rd grade lesson home page: 

As you can see, the scientific concepts on the 3rd grade page were earth science, physics, astronomy, and life science. These were consistent with the curriculum we already used this year. The only addition we made was investigating a bit in the biology unit, since we studied Anatomy & Physiology in depth this year. For the purpose of this review, we mainly focused on Physics, Life Science, and Biology (human anatomy). 

What I really like: There is a lot to like about this program. The experiments are fun, usually simple to recreate, relevant to the lesson material, and there are plenty to choose from! The support is amazing. Aurora is readily available through phone or email to answer questions. There are also opportunities to post questions on each lesson. Often when we had a question, we would find that by reading through the other questions and responses, we would find answers. Other students also posted there about tips and tricks that might have given a slightly different outcome to the experiments, and we found some neat things to try because of that as well. Also, the way the experiments are set up just lends itself to the student asking questions such as "I wonder what would happen if we did it this way instead?" If you are looking for a science program that will inspire your students to form questions and investigate the answers to them, then this would be a great fit. 

Any drawbacks? I found the pdf worksheets were just too heavy for my 3rd grader. While they were very appropriate for my high schooler, they are very plain and required more writing than what I was looking for. I would love to see more age appropriate worksheets for the younger elementary set. Perhaps worksheets that included graphics, word matching, crossword puzzles, or fill in the blanks could help review the concepts more effectively in a written manner. 

How much does it cost? The full K-12 access plan is $57 per month, but if you purchase access for only K-8, it is $37 per month. At the time of this review, Supercharged Science is offering a trial membership to the entire program for just $1 with no strings attached. 

How did we use it? I know this is the part you were waiting for.....I have told you all about the program and why I like it....Now I am going to show you a few of the experiments we did!

One of the first experiments we did this year was to microwave soap! The girls were fascinated by the outcome of this experiment, and this one small, simple, (supposed to be quick) experiment led to a nearly hour long fascination with microwaving (and re-microwaving). Did you know that the consistency of Ivory soap makes it conducive to microwaving? Other soaps do not respond the same way that Ivory does in a microwave. The girls learned a lot about so many different topics through this experiment, including how microwaves work, how molecules behave, and how variations can make experiments much more interesting! 

We also built a stethoscope out of basic household materials....and it really worked! 

But the balloon race cars were the crowning achievement of our review of Supercharged Science:

After watching the video, we quickly gathered materials and built a balloon race car. In fact, we built two! (You can't have a race with only one!) It was so easy that even the 3rd grader, by just watching the video, could completely build the racer with almost no help at all! (Great educational entertainment right there). 

This was an experiment where having all the previous comments posted proved very helpful. We were able to read what went wrong for others, and it helped us to fix our race cars when they were having troubles. It was so much fun that the girls started to think through improvements that they could make to their cars to make them run faster. This ended up in building yet another race car that could hold two balloons instead of one, to see if it would run even faster! 

The balloon race cars were so much fun that the girls never even realized they were learning all about laws of Physics while racing them across the living room. 

I included a short video clip of our balloon race cars for your enjoyment:

Overall, I think Supercharged Science is a phenomenal and very thorough homeschool science curriculum and I am so thankful for the privilege of reviewing it and sharing it with you again this year! We even used Supercharged Science as the inspiration for our Spring Science Fair project.

Aurora Lipper is very active in social media, and always pins really cool science stuff on Pinterest as well. Here is how you can follow along:  Aurora Lipper on Pinterest 

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