We were offered a chance to use and review Science4Us.com. Before we even received our login information, while we still only had access to the sample activities on their website, the daily question at the house was “Can I do my science?” Of course, that was always followed by another little voice saying “Hey! It’s my turn to go first!”
We are all very excited about Science4Us.com and the product they have to offer. They have created a child-friendly platform for science. The online program is designed to work best as kindergarten science activities, first grade science activities, and second grade science activities. As I see it, they are offering a very adaptable product. It works equally well for my 4th grade giggly girl and my science-loving 2nd grader as it does for my just-turned-5 giggly girl. They definitely get different things out of it but they all are learning from this fun program. Whether you are looking for a program for your techie child or your hands-on learner, your older elementary student who needs some review or your older preschooler who is excited about learning, at $7.95 per child per month, the Science4Us.com Online Subscription could be just the thing for you.
Science4Us.com created their program with the 5 E instructional model. What this means is that it is based on the following 5 areas: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. The Engage stage of the model works to help your child remember any prior learning and knowledge that is hiding in the brain regarding the topic of the module. These activities are designed to “flip the switch” for that knowledge. The Explore stage is a time for the student to play with the concepts in the module. The Explain stage is where the direct instruction takes place, giving the students a description of the concept, the formal labels related to the concept, and the vocabulary necessary to speak and write about the concept. The Elaborate stage is where the student uses and applies the concept in a variety of ways, from vocabulary and building models to drawing graphs and categorizing materials. The final stage, Evaluate, is the assessment piece that helps you know if you student has understood. Each of these stages has both online and off-line materials that the teacher can choose from to find what works best for each student.
When the giggly girls log in, they see a screen like the one here.
It is very easy for them to navigate and to move through the activities. If they have an assignment, it shows up in the center area and they just click on the first activity there. If they don’t have an assignment, that area contains the activities they completed most recently. If they didn’t have an assignment showing up, it meant they were free to choose which Book of Science they wanted to work in that day. Once they chose the book to work in, they always had to complete the first 3 activities in order (Engage, Explore, and Explain). After that, they were free to choose the order of activities. Some of the activities took a grade, some activities had them complete a notebook page, and some were just playing games and having fun. Each time an activity was completed, a star appeared on the icon. (95% of the time this worked just like it was supposed to but once in a while, the star didn’t appear. The girls really liked getting those stars and would redo the activity just to get that star! A couple of times, a giggly girl had to complete the activity 3 times and sometimes, we had to log out and log back in and then redo the activity for the star to appear. They really didn’t mind, they liked the activities so much!)
An example of an activity where the student created a new type of plant. Note the star on the right indicating a completed activity.
One of the aspects of this program that I really like is that from the teacher’s page, I can access the Student Reports. This shows what each child has done. If the giggly girl had completed an activity, it put a star in the box for that activity. If there was a grade taken, the grade was shown right there. The teacher can click on that grade to see each question, the objective for that question, and whether it was answered correctly. If there was a notebook page created, it shows a little notebook in that box. Clicking on the icon for the notebook allows the teacher to see what the student created, make a comment, and leave a smiley face or star. This is what the Student Report page looks like. (click on the image to enlarge)
Much of the learning that our children did was using the online modules but it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. Science4Us.com has an unbelievable teacher page that gives you tons information and activities that are done off-line. Take a look at this screen shot of the teacher’s page for the Materials and Mixtures Module.
This page gives you a description of the module and what is being taught. It provides information about each of the sessions or activities that will be in the module. The page gives you access to a file regarding best teaching practices for this type of lesson and explanations to use about the module with your students. The page has links for printable support documents for each activity in the lesson and printable materials to do offline activities with your students. Some of the modules have a hands-on experiment to go with it. There is so much here to help you ensure that you are teaching your children accurately and in the learning style that fits them best. Win-win!
There are a couple of items that I think would make this product better. One is that I would have loved to have a “map” of the online and off-line materials all together so that it was easier to choose what worked best. The only way to find what material is available is to open each individual file for each individual activity in a module and for each grade level. It is a time intensive way to find out what is available for each module. I also would love to see them modify their assignments portion. Once a activity is assigned, you cannot see which student it has been assigned to. In order to determine that, you have to log into each student’s account to see if the activity is there. Related to that, sometimes an assignment would not be removed from a student’s account after the student had completed it.
Other changes that I think would make the program better are related to some things that just didn’t quite work right. A few times, the activity just quit working. The computer didn’t freeze and the screen didn’t freeze, just the activity. We could use the program’s back button to start the activity over and it would work just fine. There were a couple of activities that we could not see the entire screen on. One had to do with measuring and the answer was at 11 1/2 inches, which was not visible on the screen and so the giggly girl could not click on the answer. Changing browsers did not help with this. Other times, when they were working with the vocabulary words and syllables, the word would be misspelled in the syllables (example: respond was spelled re-spon) or mispronounced (example: germinate was pronounced germiny).
All in all, these were little things that didn’t affect the overall program. Yes, it would be nice for them to be modified but the program is still fantastic. This is one the girls heartily recommend and I certainly do, too. We will continue to use this program until the girls have completed all of the modules. We love it that much! So the next time you visit us, you just might find one of the girls engaged in a science lesson from Science4Us.com. At Home.
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