Tag Archives: science

Experience Biology with Journey Homeschool Academy ~ a Crew review

high school biology

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Upper level high school science courses are necessary if you are looking at pursing education beyond high school. They require more time management, study skills, comprehension, and, often, skills that have not been developed yet. In our case, things like lab writing, microscope use for a specific purpose, and quiz/test taking scored by someone other than mom. It has been a good journey so far with Journey Homeschool Academy and their upper level lab science course of Experience Biology.

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Experience Biology: Upper Level is a college prep level course that is extremely rigorous. Taught by a scientist and a teacher, Luke and Trish Gilkerson, the information coming from Journey Homeschool Academy is solid and challenging. Experience Biology includes the video lessons, a guidebook to complete and take notes in during lectures, quizzes to ensure understanding along the way, lab instruction videos and lab write-ups turned in online (but graded by parent), lab research questions, and quarterly exams. There is also a book for reading assignments; though this book was not included for this review, it is highly recommended by Journey Homeschool Academy. The course covers every topic you would expect in a high school level biology class.

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Experience Biology has sign up periods periodically through the year so that they can help guide students through the course and check off assignments that have been turned in. Once you sign up and begin on the chosen date, you have access to the course for one year. The class has 35 lessons, including the exam days. They are released to the student one lesson at a time. Once a student completes a lesson, the next one should be available shortly. This helps the student pace the class better and not get overwhelmed.

Experience Biology has a parent dashboard that is easy to navigate and find what you need. There is a parent curriculum guide for the course to help you understand your role in the learning process and the role the class will fill. The answer key to the student guidebook and research questions are here. There is also a sample lab report and answers needed for a few of the labs.

The list of lab supplies is included here, also. This list is great because there is a copy both of the overall list of supplies and another that is by lesson. This allows planning ahead to have needed supplies on hand at the right time. Since some of the items have a limited lifespan, this lesson by lesson list is really helpful.

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The student dashboard is also easy to navigate. It includes a welcome video from the instructors. There is a resources tab that has the guidebook to download or order, as well as the lab guidebook with step by step written instructions for each.

Click on a lesson from the list at the left. It brings up the page for it, which includes the checklist with boxes to mark for each item completed. The video lessons are right there on the page and are generally broken into two videos of instruction. The student uses the list on the left to access the quiz page, the research questions page, and the lab instruction, where applicable. Not every lesson has a lab but about half of them do.

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When there is a lab, the student will have additional instruction specific to this lab. There is a video with instructions, and as needed, step by step instruction on how to complete the lab.

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The lab guidebook has additional information to help the student be successful. There is an overview, materials needed, step-by-step instructions, and note taking space.

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It is expected that the student will write up and submit a lab report. This is done online, though the assignments tab in the list on the left of the page. The student can submit some things by typing in the box. They can also submit a link to a place like a Google doc or to a Dropbox. Miss E has done hand-written lab reports so she takes pictures of her report, inserts them into a doc, and turns in the link for that. The online submission is for completion of the course while the parent assigns the actual grade for the lab report. (Instructions for grading are found on the parent dashboard in the Parent Curriculum Guide.)

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Experience Biology has been an excellent challenge for Miss E. She has started getting into the groove of the program, after experiencing a couple of stumbles early on. The Parent Curriculum Guide will tell you that these first few weeks are often the toughest for students so I wasn’t surprised by this.

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As a parent/teacher, I am very pleased with the quality of instruction, the thoroughness of the presentation, and the materials available for my student to learn about biology. If you are looking for a biology course for your high school student, certainly check out Journey Homeschool Academy. There are actually 2 levels of this course that you can choose from – one that does not include the labs and so is not considered a full high school credit (according to their website) and one that includes the labs, videos, and support information and awards a certificate of completion for one high school credit for a lab science. The difference in cost is not significant and there are discounts for multiple students.

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In addition to Experience Biology: Upper Level, you can also purchase other courses from Journey Homeschool Academy. Courses reviewed by other Homeschool Review Crew families include Experience Biology: Elementary and Experience Astronomy: Elementary.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read some of these other reviews about the courses offered by Journey Homeschool Academy.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

JHA Experience Biology

Creator Kit from Pitsco Education ~ a Crew review (& giveaway)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

a Crew review by At Home_ where life happens

Hands-on learning engages the mind like nothing else can. It turns it on. Maybe that is why Pitsco Education uses the hashtag of #handsonmindson . I really like that! We have been using the Middle School STEM Creator Pack (46204), which is designed for grades 6-8. It has been a great fit and we have enjoyed it tremendously.

Pitsco Education is a company that has products designed for hands-on learning and  problem solving that engage the brain in discovery learning. The company is striving to provide real-life learning and training that does more than boost their scientific knowledge. Rather, they are trying to build the relevant skills to help the academic skills thrive alongside. This includes social interaction, working with others, observing and testing ideas, and guiding open-ended projects. Pitsco has worked to make sure their products meet national standards and guidelines, as well. The core mission is student success.

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Pitsco Education works to meet this core mission of student success through products and activities they offer. There are products available for all ages. Whether you are looking for a STEM kit of activities, a set of family challenges, or a programming activity, there are several choices for you. The Crew has been reviewing these products:

Elementary STEM Explorer Pack (46198) – Grades K-5
Middle School STEM Creator Pack (46204) – Grades 6-8
High School STEM Innovator Pack (46210) – Grades 9-12
Family Design Challenges Kit (TRG kit 46235) – Grades 3-8
Code Cube Single Kit (45843) – Grades 3-5
Smart Buddies at Home  – Grades 3-5
Arduino Education Student Kit (46239) – Grades 6-12

(You can read more about each one and see more information on the giveaway by visiting the Homeschool Review Crew blog.)

Creator Pack

STEM Creator Pack for Middle School (grades 6-8)

We received this fully-packed box in the mail and had a joy opening it to see what we were going to get to do.

The kit included the following activities:

  • Creating a Friction Climber
  • Creating da Vinci bridges
  • Creating Rolling Vehicles
  • Creating Catapults
  • Creating My Invention

Each package had the materials needed to complete the activity and an instruction booklet (the Creator’s Guide) with additional activities and interesting facts. We did have to provide a couple of things from home like scissors and a ruler.

Most of the Creator’s Guide instructions were easy to follow and Miss J was able to complete them on her own. She did need an extra pair of hands for several things but she was able to tell me what to do in order to help her. We had a couple of times where we had to modify the plans because we could not make them work as written, such as when working on getting the catapult set up, the o ring would not hold the sides in place so we added a piece of tape to hold the sides together. Another time was in trying to put wheels on the car. The holes in the plastic wheels were not wide enough so we had to widen them a bit with a knife. While it would have been nice for these to work without needing modification of any type, it was fine to have to problem solve how to fix these minor issues.

Let’s look at each kit just a bit.

rolling vehicle

We started with Creating Rolling Vehicles. The templates were included so Miss J picked one and colored it, then cut it out. She followed the instructions for adding the axles. She got it together and had a good time sending the car back and forth across the floor. The Creator’s Guide asked her to work with push power first and had her use an elevated plane to evaluate some of the ways in which it worked. There were questions for her to consider, such as “Where does the energy come from for it to roll down the ramp?” The guide included charts to fill out when comparing things in an activity, which was nice. After a few activities, she added a balloon on a straw to the vehicle to make it powered differently. This was fun and it allowed them to talk a bit about jet engines and increasing speed.

The da Vinci bridges Creator Guide was difficult to follow. The instructions, I can imagine, were really difficult to write. We ended up having to look for a video on building a da Vinci bridge and still struggled. We did get one that could hold weight but we could not build it very big.

That was a bit disappointing and we hope to try it with larger pieces of wood. We felt like the craft sticks were just too short to use effectively. That would be a nice change for the company to make to this particular kit.

catapult

Creating Catapults was a kit that Miss J loved. She had a great time with the catapult. It was fairly easy to make using the die cut pieces in the kit. The questions guided her to consider how to increase the accuracy, precision, and distance. The Think About It sections really had her evaluating what was going on and creating and testing hypotheses. She worked hard to learn how to aim and be precise with her throws. The one thing this kit did not include that may or may not be lying around the house is a pair of safety glasses.

designing an invention

Creating My Invention was a fun kit that even had Miss J doing a bit of research. It discussed elevators a bit and then asked some questions. She had me look some things up for her and we talked about it. She then drew a picture of how she was going to build an elevator. Well, as is always true of inventions, the first incarnation did not work so she had to reevaluate and redesign. She eventually came up with an elevator that could lift a small doll. She was super proud of that and played with it for several days. There are plenty more materials left for her to design more inventions.

The final kit was Creating a Friction Climber. This one was super disappointing for us. Even with me reconsidering all of her work and making sure she followed all of the directions in the Creator’s Guide, we could not get this to work. We have made friction climbers before and we still could not figure out why this one will not work. Just the same, it was good for her to experience that not everything works perfectly the first (or second or third, etc.) time and sometimes you have to abandon what you are doing and just move on. We will revisit this one with a fresh attitude in a bit.

Final Thoughts

We have really loved this Middle School STEM Creator Pack (46204) for Grades 6-8. It has provided quite a few hours worth of interest and activity. She has learned a lot, worked independently and with someone else, approached some things she thought she could not do, and failed at some thing that she thought were simple. All of these are great outcomes and don’t even touch the STEM learning that occurred. Hands-on, minds-on learning is wonderful. Interested?

Pitsco Education is giving away one of each of the kits being reviewed by the Homeschool Review Crew, including one of the Middle School STEM Creator Pack. Head to their website to enter the giveaway for the Middle School Creator Pack. Want to know about some of the other kits and enter those giveaways? Visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about them and find the links for the other kits being given away.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Pitsco ed pin

Quick Activity for Weather Unit Wrap-up

Quick Activity for Weather Unit Wrap-up

Today, my oldest came to me to let me know she had finished her meteorology book yesterday. Um – y’all – that came as a surprise! I suddenly needed something to act as a wrap-up and “final project.” Quick thinking resulted and I remembered something she has not done in a long time – creating a cross-word puzzle.

Bingo!

It was perfect. I assigned her the creation of a cross-word puzzle using the vocabulary of the book. She had to create a puzzle with at least 20 words in it from the highlighted vocabulary of her book. Each clue had to use the definition of the word. And, so she didn’t have to do the busy work of creating the grid for the puzzle, we found a free online puzzle maker – http://puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/CrissCrossSetupForm.asp

It was super easy for her to do, made her consider what words were important, and gave a fun final project that wasn’t just busy work. The cross-word puzzle was printed out and the youngest giggly girl wants to do it. So, tomorrow, the puzzle will get worked.

To complement the puzzle, the oldest giggly girl will also be doing a written project where she will write about her favorite sections of the book, including what she learned. I had initially asked her to write a simple page on her favorite chapter of the book. She asked permission to expand it because there were interesting and fun tidbits in all of the sections, so she didn’t want to skip any of that.

I can’t express how happy that made me because what it told me was that she enjoyed her learning and she learned more than she expected to. So, over the next three days she will be writing her paper about what she learned in meteorology.

Final project – check!

This is not the complete end of her high school meteorology class but it is a good, solid end to the first half of the year.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Quick Activity for Weather Unit

2019 Blue Ribbon Awards ~ a look back at the Crew year

The Results Are In

As we do each year, the Homeschool Review Crew has voted for their favorite products from the reviews done in 2019. Our last reviews for the year will post next week, so every has had a chance to use all of the products for several weeks. The Crew chooses the categories and we spent a bit of time a week ago working through our choices in each category. Today, we are sharing that with you. So, let’s jump right in.

Writing Curriculum: Jump In from Sharon Watson

Language Arts (complete curriculum): Hewitt Homeschool’s Lightning Lit

Grammar Resource: Easy Grammar

Literature Curriculum: LitWits (review posting next week)

History/Social Studies: Drive Thru History

History Supplement: Library and Educational Services books

Science Curriculum: CrossWired Science

Math Curriculum: CTCMath

Math Supplement: Channie’s Page-A-Day workbooks

Middle School/Young Adult Book: Britfield & The Lost Crown by C.R. Stewart

Biography: Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love from Christian Focus

Poetry or Audio Drama: Heirloom Audio’s For The Temple

Fine Arts: Creating A Masterpiece’s Drawing Program

Elective: Stopmotion Explosion

Bible Supplement: Drive Thru History’s Acts to Revelation

Favorite Elementary School Product: Homeschool In The Woods – Project Passport:Middle Ages (we used only the timeline for our elementary student though our high school student has completed the whole study)

Favorite Middle School Product: Stopmotion Explosion

Favorite High School Product: Britfield & The Lost Crown by C.R. Stewart

Favorite Parent Product: Transcripts Made Easy by Everyday Education

Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed: Stopmotion Explosion

Favorite Fun Resource: Brain Blox Building Planks AND Fun Family Chess (but we could only vote for one so we voted for the planks)

Helpful Tool/Resource: Transcripts Made Easy by Everyday Education

Miss J – Kid’s Choice: Brain Blox Building Planks

Miss L – Teen’s Choice: Stopmotion Explosion

Miss E – Teen’s Choice: The Kingdom Code (financial education)

Adult’s Choice: Creating A Masterpiece’s Drawing ProgramThe REsults are in

So there you have them – our choices of products we really enjoyed. Now, to be fair, there were several of these categories where we had to negotiate with each other for a final choice because there were more than one choice someone wanted to vote for. So, just because it isn’t linked here, doesn’t mean we didn’t like the product. So, you could always search for TOS Reviews on the blog here to get all of the reviews we have done or search by subject or topic to narrow it down.

By the way – The Crew is still adding bloggers, vloggers, and social media influencers to the team for the 2020 Crew year. If you are interested, visit the Crew site to read more about the requirements and find the application. We do enjoy expanding our team and would like to have you join us.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Click on the image below to see the 2019 Blue Ribbon Award winners as chosen by the votes from members of the Homeschool Review Crew. You can also find a link up with other bloggers who have shared their family’s favorites from the 2019 Crew year.

Homeschool-Review-Crew-Favorite-Homeschool-Products-for-2019

A Round-up of Bird Study Resources

Bird Study Resources

We are studying birds with our upper elementary student. Again. Because she is fascinated. You can read about what we did a couple of years ago and see the resources we used that year on the post about birds.

This year, we are going more in depth about the different birds, habitats, migration, anatomy, and all the other stuff. We have pulled all the bird books we have one the shelves and are reading through them or the parts of them that pertain to birds. I have pulled the DVDs we have and have bookmarked things on Netflix and Amazon. We have a ton of material to cover this year!

Some of these links are to product reviews that I have done. Others are to blog posts that I have written in regards to the item. One is an affiliate link; it is marked as such.

Picture Books:

Field Guides:

  • The Sibley’s Field Guide To Birds of Western North America, written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley
  • Texas Birds: A Folding Pocket Naturalist’s Guide to familiar species
  • Birds of Central Texas: A Guide to Common and Notable Species
  • Favorite Audubon Birds of America with Introduction and Commentaries by Roger Tory Peterson
  • Identifying and Feeding Birds (a BirdWatcher’s Digest book) by Bill Thompson III

Science Curriculum Books:

  • Apologia’s Flying Creatures – lessons 1-6
  • Christian Nature Readers Level 4 – chapters 2-9
  • The Usborne Complete First Book of Nature – pages 2-24
  • Creation Club Idea Book: Experiencing Nature with Children of All Ages at Home, School, Camp, or Church by Constance H. Crossman – pages 25-40
  • What’s That Bird? from Memoria Press
  • CrossWired Science (affiliate link) – They have a short study unit on birds called Mighty Feathers. It is supposed to include around 30 hours of work if we do it all.

DVDs/movies/videos:

  • Flight: the genius of birds (from Illustra Media)
  • Wild America – season 2 is all about birds (part of Amazon Prime Video at the time of this writing)
  • Super Nature Wild Flyers (on Netflix at the time of this writing)
  • Beak & Brain: Genius Birds From Down Under (on Netflix at the time of this writing)
  • Bird Brain by Nova (on Netflix at the time of this writing)
  • Birders (on Netflix at the time of this writing)
  • Dancing With the Birds (coming to Netflix but not yet there at the time of this writing)
  • Birds of the Backyard (on Amazon Prime Video at the time of this writing)
  • Nature: Season 4 Episode 3 – on ostrich, emu and the rhea (on Amazon Prime Video at the time of this writing)
  • Hummingbirds, narrated by David Attenborough (on Amazon Prime Video at the time of this writing)
  • First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird’s Story (on Amazon Prime Video at the time of thie writing)
  • Audubon – a video that combines a biography of Audubon, the man’s art, and live shots of the birds that correspond to his drawings (on Amazon Prime Video at the time of this writing)

Other:

  • A Charm of Goldfinches And Other Wild Gatherings: Quirky Collective Nouns of the Animal Kingdom by Matt Sewell
  • A Nest For Celeste by Henry Cole (I don’t own this book but it looks good and includes a lot of information about Audubon and his apprentice and his artwork) – read more about it on a friend’s blog)

The more I look, the more I find to explore and learn about. We are spending a bit of time on Friday afternoons at the Arboretum here locally and seeing which birds we can see. Hopefully, we can find a good place to settle in and do some sketching.

I am really enjoying this unit and I think so is Miss J. If you know of additional resources that might fit in, please leave a comment with it below. There is always room for more, right?

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

A Round-up of Bird Study Resources

Destination Moon ~ Book Club

September's Book Club

Oh y’all – August just blew right up and caught me completely unaware. I did not get a post up for that and gave myself permission to skip it. But, I have September’s ready and it is a lovely read on the space race.

Destination Moon: The Remarkable and Improbably Voyage of Apollo 11
by Richard Maurer

Destination Moon recounts the components of the space race from WWII until the end of the Apollo program. This gives a nice, easy-to-read chronology of the events that brought the US to the moon six times. The book brings us to know not only the astronauts that flew on the rockets and landed on the moon, but also those scientists and politicians that made sure the program kept moving forward. The political tensions and social issues are not ignored, as they all played such an important role in the space race.

The way in which the characters involved are introduced is fabulous, bringing them into the picture one-by-one, giving their history. It is easy to see how the role they each played was important.

The book contains 36 chapters and seven briefings, broken down into six parts:

  • War
  • Dreams
  • Spacemen
  • The Plan
  • Crews
  • The Moon

Filled throughout with black and white photographs of the events and people, this is a wonderful resource for learning more about how the United States made it to the moon.

Want to read another review? Check out A Net In Time. This is where I first heard of this recounting of the true story so I decided to pick it up from the library and I am really glad I did. I learned so much reading through this chronology of the events that brought US astronauts to the moon.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

There are additional resources to be found on SchoolhouseTeachers.com related to space – some to experiments and some are lessons on the spacecraft. A lesson on manned spacecraft, one on models and space exploration, one on space probes, and then some others with the space themed activities. Please consider using the link above (affiliate link – if you choose to purchase a membership with them, I will receive a small commission).

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Inner Space Cavern

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To start off our “new year”, we did many of our norms – took the day off, made grade level signs and took pictures, had a fun breakfast (see this on our Instagram account), and enjoyed the leisurely day. But we also took a field trip on day two. We went to Austin for some items we had to pick up and on the way back, we made a stop at Inner Space Cavern.

This cavern is found right alongside I-35. In fact, it was discovered because of the construction of the interstate. When they were drilling as part of building the road, they punctured the cavern and lost the drill bit. They actually punctured it 8 time, I think they said. One of the men decided he had to get the drill bit back and a geologist rode the giant drill down into the cavern with a tiny little light to find the bit. He also found some amazing formations. Of course, they looked completely different to him, probably, with only a small light and not the beautiful lighting they have in there now. But still, it was probably stunning to him to see the giant cavern.

It is interesting to stand in the quiet and hear the rumbling of the vehicles overhead on the interstate. At one point, the guide turns all the lights off and you get to absorb the absolute darkness. It is so interesting. The tour we took was about an hour and we had a fabulous tour guide. He knew the history of the cave and a large amount of the scientific information to go along with it. He added his own humor and entertained questions of all sorts from my chatty youngest. She kept up to the front of the tour group and chatted with him for a large part of the time. She asked all sorts of questions and he did a good job answering them (at least from my perspective at the back with my oldest).

All three girls seemed to really enjoy the outing but I know from hanging out with the oldest at the back that she was thoroughly pleased that we had stopped and taken the tour. In fact, she is begging to come back and do the hardest tour, where they strap a light on you and you go spelunking in tiny crevices and your light is the only source. It is definitely off the main path and is not a very big group, thus the much higher price point than the tour we took yesterday.

The formations we got to see were just beautiful. They were interesting and hearing about how they form and grow was just as enjoyable as it has been since I was a child. Learning about the number of animals whose bones were found in the cavern was interesting and it was neat to see the drawings that had been created on a retaining wall. There was a giant sinkhole that had formed and that was interesting to see the evidence of, also. Some of the bones had been taken up to the visitor’s center and were on display there. Most, though, as still down in the cavern, as exposure to air and moisture disintegrates them very quickly since they have not had the compression necessary to fossilize them.

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Another really interesting part was the room where we were shown flint forming on the ceiling. The flint looked totally different on the outside but when it was cut open, there was the tell-tale color of black. That was really interesting to see in a natural setting.

The rough patches on the smooth rock are the flint beginning to form. To the left of that, there are some large, almost tooth-shaped rocks with a lot of rough rock below it. That is the exposed fault line.

The rough patches on the smooth rock are the flint beginning to form. To the left of that, there are some large, almost tooth-shaped rocks with a lot of rough rock below it. That is the exposed fault line.

In that same room, he showed us the evidence of the Balcones Fault line. It is the only fault running through Texas and has had its top layers of rock interlock like strong legos. It is so strong, the guide said, that we would be safer under the fault line in the cavern than above it were an earthquake to hit. The interlocked rocks would hardly move! And we were able to see that fault line and broken rock from when it shook many, many, many years ago. Really fascinating.

Inner Space Cavern is not quite as large as Carlsbad, which I have posted about on from 2017 and 2013, but it is just a beautiful cave and is privately operated. I am so glad we stopped to check it out.

Edit to add: A blogger contacted me to let me know she had a fairly thorough unit study to go along specifically with Inner Space but really, guys, it looks like it would work great for all caves. You can find it on her blog Waco Mom.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

New Mexico Bucket List – V ~ Blogging Through The Alphabet

Blogging Through The Alphabet V image

There are some things in New Mexico that seem just, well, strange. As we noted in an earlier post, one of these is volcanoes in New Mexico. The other is what is called the Very Large Array or VLA. Let’s visit the VLA first.

VLA A024,_VLA_Radio_Telescopes,_New_Mexico,_USA,_2001

By Brian W. Schaller – Own work, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30495896

The Very Large Array is an astronomical radio observation station. You will find the VLA about 50 miles west of the city of Socorro, out on the plains. There are 27 of the radio antennas out there, positioned in a large Y shape. Each of the antennas is 82 feet in diameter. The uniqueness of this is that each of the signals is combined to essentially create a single signal from what is the equivalent of a receiver 22 miles by 422 feet.

VLA Karl_G._Jansky_Very_Large_Array_(8279314499)

By BriYYZ from Toronto, Canada – Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25905886

So what does the VLA actually do? From the National Radio Astronomy Observatory site, “Radio astronomy is the study of celestial objects that give off radio waves. With radio astronomy, we study astronomical phenomena that are often invisible or hidden in other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.” The gathered information is used by astronomers around the world.

On northward now to the Valles Caldera National Preserve. I think I may have put park on the image that I made for this week but it is technically a preserve, handled under the National Park Service. This area is located in the north-central part of the state in the Jemez Mountains. The preserve includes most of the caldera created by an eruption many, many years ago. A caldera is formed when the ground collapses into the magma chambers as the magma is erupted in a series of eruptions. (Yellowstone is another example of a caldera.)

The caldera is dormant, though not extinct. According to the NPS site, there are signs of volcanic life including boiling sulphuric acid fumaroles and hot springs. This area is considered one of the world’s best examples of an intact volcanic caldera.

In addition to the volcanic history found here, there is also plenty of examples of human history. This area was widely used for hunting and gathering lifestyles prior to the agricultural lifestyle that came about. The area has great obsidian deposits and many native cultures treasure the area and its resources. There is also a history here of the Spanish and Mexican settlements in the area, including some important land grants.

Valles Caldera Mountain_Bikers1

mountain bikers at Valles Caldera photo from National Park Service

The park is a beautiful place and there are many activities visitors can participate in. Of course, there is hiking and camping. There is fishing, horseback riding, visiting historic sites, mountain biking, and other activities including ranger-led options.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Blogging Through The Alphabet V vertical image

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Each week we will be linking up with the hosts of Blogging Through the Alphabet. Please visit some of these other blogs to get things like book lists, vegan recipes, and wonderful places to visit, just to name the topics I can think of off the top of my head.

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You can also join us and link up your own Blogging Through The Alphabet Post!! Just be sure to follow these simple rules–

* Each post must be family friendly. If it is not, we have the right to remove it.
* When linking up to this post, you give us permission to share your post and/or a photo from your post in future posts and social media shares.
* Place the Blog Button from the site onto the post you are linking up.
* Use the hashtag #abcblogging when promoting your post. This will help us find you and help us promote you as well.
* If you have time, check out a few of the other posts and share the love.
* The most important rule is to make sure you are having fun! This is not something we want you to be stressed out over. We want to see all the fun ideas that everyone comes up with for the letters!

Hands-on Science with Supercharged Science ~ a Crew review

Supercharged Science

If your students are anything like my girls, science that can be either really exciting or teeth-pulling stressful. We have been having some really excellent science days lately with Supercharged Science. The online science curriculum we have been working with has options for K-12 (and beyond). I am so glad we are going to have access to the  e-Science Homeschool Science Curriculum for a good bit longer because we are having some good fun with it. Oh, and learning science, too!

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Aurora Lipper is the founder and educator for the online classes. With the tremendous science background Mrs. Lipper has, your students get to say that they are taking science from a rocket scientist. And they are! Mrs. Lipper knows her materials very well and does a great job presenting them in a way that keeps the student’s attention while filling their heads with the knowledge they need for the topic.

The online science space for Supercharged Science can be navigated by grade level or by topic. You can choose either one and you can easily jump back and forth between the two navigation options. You have a single login for your family and so from there, they each will go to where their current work is located.

If you are navigating by grade level, you will see an image for each grade level, K-8. High school level material is found in the topics. Under each grade level is the list of the concepts taught in that level. Some of the concepts are found in multiple levels as the material increases in depth and some of the hands-on activities/experiments are repeated in different levels since the material is appropriate in multiple places. The placement of materials is based upon Mrs. Lipper’s experience as an educator and the national science standards.

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If you are navigating by topic, you click that at the top of the screen and it will take you to a list of all possible topics. There are total of 26 units. If you are new to science, or formal science, there is an overview of science and an introduction to the scientific method. There is also a unit on science fair projects, one on math activities, and one on teaching resources. Add in all the units on electricity, chemistry, physics, and other expected science topics and that’s a ton of materials!

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The units, whether accessed by level or topic, contain basically the same materials:

  • written introduction
  • video introduction
  • shopping list for hands-on activities/experiments
  • reading downloads
  • experiments with a video for each one
  • downloadable student worksheet and exercises for each experiment (often one for younger students and one for older students)
  • exercises for each part of the unit to check understanding

reading and exercises

How We Have Been Using Supercharged Science

When we received access to the program, I logged in and became familiar with how to navigate the program. (We reviewed this program previously and the navigation is the same at this point. However, see my note at the end of the review on the soon-to-be-released new site with better navigation.)

Screenshot 2019-05-27 at 5.52.42 PMThen Miss J and I sat down together and I let her just explore the options. We looked at grade level and then at topics. I let her watch some of the videos and look at the possible experiments. After looking at the grade five level, she decided that she wanted to do some things with gravity and magnetism. So, she started working on Unit 1: Mechanics through the topics menu. I bookmarked the main page of this for her, with her name next to Supercharged Science, so that she could easily find where she was.

Miss L sat down on her own and explored the options. She chose to work with Unit 10: Electricity. She really wants to tackle Unit 14: Electronics but realized that it would be good to have the background of electricity first. So, she has been working through that unit first. She also has the unit bookmarked with her name on it so that she doesn’t have to click through many pages to get to where she is in the unit. We have updated the pages a couple of times as she works through the unit so there is less clicking needed. (It looks like the number of clicks that will be needed is going to be a bit less on the new site.)

Miss E has been watching the videos on the high school level Unit 15: Chemistry 2. She did a chemistry class this year and so seeing some of that chemistry put into use has been a great extension of her course. She watches probably two experiments per day. Since this is “bonus” work for the chemistry class she took, she is not doing the worksheets.

Mechanics: 

This unit covers force, gravity and friction. There are 9 experiments to go with force. There are two teleclasses and three experiments to go with gravity. There are seven experiements to go with friction. We work on science 4 days per week and we generally do one video and experiment per day. We are in the friction section now and it has been a blast getting here.

Miss J enjoys hands-on and so this is obviously just right for her. She likes to see things done for her (the video to go along with each experiment is perfect for this) and then she likes to do them. She has found most of the experiments are able to be replicated, though not as easily as the video makes them look. (But isn’t that a great lesson – try, try again?)

hovercraft

Some of her favorite lessons have been the barrel roof, the paper airplanes, and the simple hovercraft. She has also done several experiments with balls (dropping them, throwing them, comparing them).

 

While those demonstrated concepts well, the real fun comes when you make something. We made a simple compass, made a paper clip fly, and registered the minute movements of the earth’s electromagnetic field with a machine we made.

 

She even used static electricity to move objects.

Each of these lessons varies widely in the amount of time required. If you are viewing a teleclass, the video can be close to 50 minutes. If you are doing a simple experiment, like the one we did about force using a rope, it can be just a couple of minutes for the video and five more for the experiment. Some days, you can easily get in more than one experiment and that is why the shopping list is great. You can use it to gather all the materials you need for the unit before even starting the unit. That saves time in the long run because no one likes to spend time gathering materials for the experiment when the student is ready RIGHT NOW for the experiment.

Electricity:

Miss L has been able to do most of this unit on her own, though some of the experiments she has skipped because I couldn’t find the right materials (that I KNOW we have some where). *See note above about the shopping list and gathering materials prior to the unit.* She works very independently so I am not exactly sure just how far she has gotten in the unit. She does one video and experiment each day. electricity experiment 1

This unit has two lessons: circuits and components, and robotics. In the circuits and components sections, there are 13 experiments. In the robotics section, there are 15 experiments. Miss L has made some interesting looking contraptions with her experiments, some of which have worked well and some which have not. For one that did not work we were able to determine that it was probably due to the humidity levels (over 90% that day) so she plans to try it again soon. It is a good lesson for the student to have to figure out why something isn’t working like Mrs. Lipper says it should. Lots of lessons are learned that way.

Chemistry:

chemistry video

This unit includes 2 lessons. The first has one teleclass and nine videos. The second has one teleclass and 38 (yes! 38!) experiment videos. Many of the videos in this unit are for things we cannot do at the house so it is amazing to have good videos of the chemical reactions and excellent explanations of the results that are being seen.

Miss E spends about 20 – 30 minutes on this each day. Because we are using this as an extension of her previous chemistry class, I am not requiring the worksheets or exercises from her.

Overall Thoughts

This is an exciting online science program with solid explanations and clear examples. With all of the visual examples of the concepts being show in the experiments and then being able to do most of the experiments, this truly is a science program that teaches and shows the concepts. The students are truly able to see and understand better because of this.

When we reviewed this previously, it was just as good of a program but it didn’t fit us as well. The girls were younger and so it took a lot more preparation on my part (gathering materials and deciding what videos to watch, etc). I had to do all of the navigating and they didn’t always want to work on the same materials. With them older and more independent, this is a much better fit. I don’t know that this program will peter out of use as it did before since the girls are each working on something that is of interest to them. They all seem to be getting much more out of it this time around.

Note on New Site

There will be a new Supercharged Science site introduced soon. The content is all going to remain the same. There will still be all the same parts of each unit and the worksheets and videos will all still be available as they are on the current site. The new site will have easier navigation and is easier on the eyes. There is less of the stark white and more soothing blue, which makes it a pleasant experience. The girls and I have been given a sneak-peek at the new site and I really do like the way it is going to be set up. It will make navigation easier. We will still bookmark each girls’ part of the site in a different bookmark so they can get to their own unit easily but overall, it is much easier to go from place to place and to get to the worksheets or videos or whatever you need within the unit. Be looking for this new site to roll out soon.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

A number of families from the Homeschool Review Crew were given the opportunity to try out Supercharged Science.

Head over to the Crew blog to read about their experiences.

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CrossWired Science ~ a Crew review

There are affiliate links embedded in this review. This is being disclosed in accordance with regulations.

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Linking learning together creates for long-term memory and stronger understanding. This is the goal of CrossWired Science. The name comes from the way in which they cross-link all of the learning into what they call Global Topics. This brand-new company has a subscription program that gives you access to their entire site. The site is growing and changing with new additions all the time.

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At this point, there are two Global Topics up but there are plans for 2 more in the immediate future and multiple others in the more distant future. When the Global Topics are all up, there will be six years of science on the site. The current Global Topics are  Sound, and Fluid Dynamics.

Global Topics

Fluid Dynamics and Sound are the two Global Topics shown here.

What is a Global Topic, you ask? This is a broad science category that has multiple application areas. CrossWired takes a look at as many of those applications as they can for each topic. They do this through targeted videos they have made. They also have a variety of related videos from others (not hot linked on the student pages but copy and paste works simply or you can use a hot link from the teacher’s account), experiments, readings, and drawings. They have cross-wired every related application and use they can think of, it seems. That is where the name comes from – relating everything together and letting the brain wire the knowledge that way. This kind of knowledge transfer is long-lasting and strong.

Our Family’s Use

All three of the giggly girls were using the program. We got access about a month ago and have been using it almost daily during our regular school days. As I mentioned the program is brand-new and so materials are still being added daily to enrich and expand the program. Two of the girls chose to use the Fluid Dynamics topic and one chose the Sound topic.

progress on program.

They log on to their own individual student account. It has marked what they have completed in their topic so they can choose something different. There is not a set schedule, direction, or plan. This is almost a “rabbit trail” curriculum, meaning the student chooses what looks interesting that day and explores it.

  • The exploration may be through the core videos, which are targeted videos that explain and demonstrate the topic. Each video has its own page and has a link to a printable worksheet to go along with it. After watching the video, there is a quick quiz to test the student’s knowledge based on the video. Once the test has been completed, it cannot be retaken. Each video page has a link on the right for helpful information and directions for the teacher who is looking for more on how best to use the core videos. video lesson page
  • It might be through related videos. For Fluid Dynamics this included things like space or underwater animals or waves.
  • It could be through a suggested reading plan. There are several of these to choose from, including the YWAM biographies, science books, Creation magazine, or books of the student’s choosing. There is one reading plan linked at this time but the rest of these reading plans should be linked soon.
  • There are experiments. There are a significant number of experiments and hands-on activities for the topic. Each one is a clickable link that takes you to a printable PDF. It includes information on the project and helps the student understand the points structure, which is helpful for the parent grading each project. The PDF also has hot links for videos, materials, or information that will help complete the experiment. There is also an approximate time frame on each one to assist with planning. There is a printable journal for the experiments that includes all of the project pages.
  • Field trip ideas are also suggested. As is well-known, field trips are a great way to really deepen a student’s understanding of a principle. Thus, it is highly recommended that field trips be taken during the study of each Global Topic to really help reinforce the learning.
  • Gold Dig (Fluid Dynamics) or Digging Deeper (Sound) is a section that is set up differently, with a lot more reading, rather than videos, and diagrams. It is still related to the Global Topic but takes the student on a bit more of an in-depth study of one part of it. For Sound, this was a study of human sounds, animal sounds, sonic booms, and more. It ends with a longer quiz and a short essay question.
  • There are two devotionals at the end of each topic. They are a more reading directed study. Both ask the student to think carefully about the devotional at the end of it. One of them on Sound has just a couple of short essay questions. The other has some multiple choice in addition to short essay.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg, y’all. There is so much here! It is a fabulously interesting program and the site allows for delight-led learning to reign freely. Two of the girls have absolutely loved having the freedom to get on and see what looks interesting to them that day. One child like structure a whole lot more and prefers check lists and specific assignments, so this was not such a good fit for her. However, it is doable both ways.

For the child who likes structure, we could easily give her a check list of what to do each day. For example, I told her to spend a minimum of 20 minutes on the site and then told her to pick videos one day. Another day I told her to pick from the experiments. Another day, I told her to do the reading plan (which actually was to go find a science book and read). So, while I didn’t have a pre-set curriculum to follow, it was easy enough to give her the checklist her heart desires with classes.

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For the other two, I often ended up having to tell them to get off the site and get busy with their other classes! They would spend hours, literally, watching the videos in the topic. This is the type of learning that resonates with them well and ties many ideas together. It is wonderful to see them really digging in.

20190325_122053Each of the Global Topics can be gone through multiple times. There is a First Timers curriculum and a Second Timers curriculum. At this point, I have not noticed much difference in the two, as they seem to contain the same videos and links and activities. It is nice though, in that when you go back through it with the Second Timers page, you will be marking off the materials again, so you can see what you have done the second time. It is recommended that this second time through happen a year or two later so that your brain can process it differently, cross-wiring the learning to other knowledge you have gained in between times.

A neat feature that we have not used yet is a note taking pop-up box. I can see some great usefulness with this feature. You click the little box down in the bottom right and it pops up a small box to make notes in. It will save those and you can look at all the notes you have taken.

Teacher’s Materials

There is a teacher’s area where you can do many things, including where you add the student accounts. There is access to view the students’ scores on the quizzes, though you have to look them up individually. These scores can even be looked at question by question if you need to pinpoint what to work on more specifically. There is a link to tips for the teacher to help plan or schedule. There is a calendar link that gives you planning information to schedule the topic, including a high school, middle school, and elementary portion. The calendars as scheduled are downloadable but there are also blank calendars for planning six months or a year.

calendar suggestion

Another link you find in the teacher’s area is to the worksheets. When you click through on these, you have access to the answers for all of the worksheets so you can grade the student work. The next link you have in the teacher area is to the links in the General Links area of the student account. Here, they are hot linked so you can play the videos directly in the teacher’s account. The same is true of the Unit Links, which are linked to be able to play directly from the teacher’s area.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Guys! This is a great site. I find it an appealing site, with the freedom to move around and find the things that are interesting. Curiosity is fed through this kind of freedom and with children who really focus on delight-led learning, this is perfect.

use and age recommendations

Within just a short while, this will be a site that can easily work as a full curriculum for the whole family. But it doesn’t have to. It could also work as a supplement to a different core curriculum or even just a site to explore for fun. There are hours and hours and hours of materials here with just the two Global Topics. When they get all of them up (I think they are aiming for something like 30), watch out! There will be endless hours of materials to learn from.

Take a minute to visit the CrossWired Science site and read up on their educational ideas, as well as through the information under General Info. The General Info is like the FAQ page and will answer many questions you might have.

This is a wonderful resource and I am so glad to have access to it! Use this code when you sign up and receive $5 off – gg17.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog and see what other families thought about this new program presented by CrossWired Science.

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