Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Going on a Curiosity Quest

We recently had the opportunity to review a couple of DVDs from Curiosity Quest in our homeschool. I wasn't familiar with Curiosity Quest prior to seeing these DVDs, but since one of them boasted episodes about sea turtles and penguins, I was pretty sure Kennady would enjoy them. We received the DVD Combo Pack - Produce and the DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea.
Curiosity Quest Review
Curiosity Quest is an upbeat educational program that airs on some PBS stations across the country. Each episode explores something that viewers were curious about. Host Joel Greene shares the viewer's letter that inspired the quest, and then invites viewers along to find the answers about subjects ranging from animals to music, food to sports, and vehicles to recycling. 

The episodes are about 30 minutes long, and along with the on-location scenes where Joel seeks answers to satisfy the viewers' curiosity, there are segments that present Fun Facts about the topic, and segments where Joel asks "man on the street" questions related to the topic. In the episodes included in our DVDs, Joel visits a sea turtle hospital, a salmon hatchery, an aquarium, a mushroom farm, an orange orchard, and a cranberry bog. He takes viewers behind the scenes in these facilities, asks questions, and gets involved in some of the operations.  
Curiosity Quest Review
Curiosity Quest Review
How did we use it?  Kennady watched the DVDs on her own, and some with me. She was most interested in the Swimmers of the Sea so that's what we watched first.
Curiosity Quest Review
Sea Turtle Rescue - sure, they're reptiles, but I think we can all agree that sea turtles have a cuteness factor! Kennady thinks so anyway, and the episode about the sea turtle hospital was her favorite in the Swimmers of the Sea DVD. (That surprised me a little, because she wanted to watch this DVD for the penguins, which I'll mention next.) In this episode, Joel visits the sea turtle hospital in Marathon, FL and gets the low-down on how the staff care for and rehabilitate sea turtles that are sick or injured. Many of the turtles there were injured by boat propellers or were tangled in nets or debris. We learned that the staff feed the turtles squid but never by hand - because to the turtles, human hands look a lot like squid tentacles! The turtles can be identified by their unique shells; and we learned that the male turtles have long tails and the females have very short tails. Sea turtles that are sufficiently recovered are released back into the wild, but some do need to stay at the hospital indefinitely. Kennady thought the little baby turtles in the nursery were especially cute!
Curiosity Quest Review

Curiosity Quest Review
Penguins - Kennady has been fascinated by penguins for awhile, so this episode was very well-received also. Staff at the Monterey Bay Aquarium answer Joel's questions about the life cycle of penguins, what they eat, how they are cared for in the aquarium, how and where they live in the wild, and other neat facts. Of course we knew that penguins have feathers, but we did learn some details about their feathers. They are very densely packed and lie smooth so they are almost rubbery. Makes sense!
Curiosity Quest Review
Salmon Hatchery - the salmon don't have the cute factor, but looking behind the scenes in an Alaska hatchery was definitely interesting! We learned about the life cycle of the fish, and all about the hatchery. Kennady was particularly impressed by the salmon ladders.

We also got to view the Produce DVD, with episodes about mushrooms, oranges, and cranberries.
Curiosity Quest Review
This visit to learn about how oranges are grown, sorted and packed turned out to be Kennady's favorite of this set. Joel tours an orchard and citrus packing facility and got answers to questions about how the oranges are grown, how they are sorted and graded by machines and by people, and even how and why they have bar code stickers on them when we see them in the grocery store. Joel even takes a turn picking some oranges while wearing the 50-pound bag! In this episode, as well as the other two on this DVD, we gained a new appreciation of the amount of time and work that it takes to get these foods to our grocery store shelves!
Curiosity Quest Review
Cranberries - Joel visits a cranberry bog in Wisconsin to find out how cranberries are grown and harvested. We learned that cranberries grow on vines, and the fields are only flooded when it's time to harvest. That's because cranberries are buoyant and will float, which makes them much easier to harvest. Nowadays almost all the harvesting is done by machines, and to illustrate why, Joel and the farm manager "race" to compare the speed of harvesting by hand (Joel using the scooper thing in the picture - I can't remember what it was called! LOL) to the speed of harvesting with a tractor. Needless to say, the tractor was  LOT faster! Joel also found out how the cranberries are graded and blow-dried  before being packed or processed and shipped.
Curiosity Quest Review
Mushrooms - at the Monterey Mushrooms facility, Joel learned that mushrooms are grown in stacked trays filled with a growing medium made from hay. We learned about two types of mushrooms - white and portobello - and why they are picked and packaged at different sizes. We even learned about the different parts of mushrooms and how growing this crop is quite different from growing plant crops.

In each episode, Joel shows a contagious enthusiasm for learning and trying new things, and reminds his viewers at the end that "every great invention began with just one person's curiosity".

What we liked best:
  • curiosity, questions, and discovery are encouraged and celebrated
  • Joel Greene does a great job of sharing an excitement for exploring all kinds of topics
What I need to mention:
  • although the recommended age range is 7 to 14 years old, we thought it was a bit "young" in places for our 12-year-old
  • there are no additional activities included on the DVDs, although they may certainly inspire viewers to do more on their own.
Our bottom line: We had a lot of fun watching these DVDs, and watching parts of them more than once! I think they would be cool additions to unit studies, especially for students in elementary grades. And they are entertaining enough to keep kids engaged and interested.
Curiosity Quest Review
What are your kids curious about? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website:
Learn more about Curiosity Quest and find links to Joel's blog and other information.

Pricing: DVD Combo Pack - Produce (Mushrooms, Orange Packing, Cranberries) and DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea (Sea Turtle Rescue, Penguins, Salmon) are available for $24.95 each. Prices for the other individual DVDs vary. See the Curiosity Quest Store for all current prices and available DVDs.

Recommended Ages: Ages 7-14

Follow Curiosity Quest on Facebook, on Twitter, and on YouTube. You may also follow Joel Green on the Curiosity Quest blog.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews.
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