Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Supercharged Science

Supercharged Science review
Last year our family was introduced to an online science program with lots of hands-on activities when we reviewed Supercharged ScienceWe had a wonderful time with it, so I was delighted to have another opportunity this spring to review Supercharged Science again. We received a six-month e-Science Premium Membership through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, so that we could explore some more of the science topics available.

Supercharged eScience Review
Supercharged Science is a web-based hands-on science program, with twenty complete science units plus units on scientific method, science fair projects, and math tips and tricks. Each of the science units includes related videos; step-by-step instructions for lots of hands-on activities, projects, and experiments; and printable text and study questions to accompany the lessons. The twenty units available include:
  • Mechanics
  • Motion
  • Energy
  • Sound
  • Astrophysics
  • Chemistry
  • Light
  • Electricity
  • Electronics
  • Life Science
  • Biology
  • Earth Science
Supercharged Science review
Supercharged Science review
There are also a couple of introductory units explaining scientific method and how to use the e-Science program, as well as units dedicated to science fair projects and Mathemagic. 
Supercharged Science review

The reading for each unit can be done directly on the website, or can be downloaded as a pdf file. Then the student will watch the accompanying videos on the website. Most feature Aurora Lipper teaching real science, the way she would in a classroom. Videos also show how to do the experiments and hands-on activities, so the instructions are available in written form and on video! Students are encouraged to do as many of the hands-on activities as possible, and a great many of them can be done using supplies you may already have or things that are generally easy to find. Each unit also has a complete supply list available, to make preparing for the hands-on activities easier. There are also comprehension questions and quizzes for each unit. The time required for each unit varies - some would take just a couple of weeks, while others may be best covered over a period of a couple of months. 
Supercharged eScience Review
New members of e-Science get access to the first seven units, and each month gain access to another two units in order. But if you need access to a later unit right away, that's no problem - just send an email and the unit you need will be unlocked for you. The site is full of so much information that having all of it available all at once can be overwhelming, so having it unlocked in increments is usually helpful. Users can work through material by topic OR by grade level. It's very helpful to have a look at the User Guide (link is also available at the website, in the top right corner) for a clear explanation with screen shots!
Supercharged Science review

e-Science can be used on its own or side-by-side with another science curriculum. There are even Conversion Charts on the website to help users figure out how to make the best use of e-Science alongside other textbooks from Apologia, God's Design, Switched On Schoolhouse, Bob Jones, and many more.

How did we use it? Since we were already familiar with e-Science after our review last year, we were able to jump in at the units we needed to go along with our science focus this year. Landon is in Grade 9 and doing Biology for high school credit this year, and Kennady is doing a study of zoology. I downloaded the pdf texts for the Life Science and Biology units and had them printed by an office supply store because my home use printer isn't capable of printing that many pages in a timely or efficient manner. The resulting unit text we have is about 250 pages of text, instructions for activities, and study questions.
Supercharged Science review
Landon is expected to read all of the text and answer all of the study questions on his own, and that has gone very well. Over the past several weeks, he has studied cells and genetics, and started studying protists, fungi and plants. The text portions for these two units (Life Science 1 and 2) as well as the two Biology units are labeled as being appropriate for grades K-8, and since Landon is working on a high school level, we are supplementing this with additional reading and assignments in order to make it well worth the credit.
Supercharged Science review
Kennady is studying zoology this year, so her use of e-Science has been focused on watching the videos, which really are a big feature of the program! As she studies groups of animals, she reads any accompanying information on the website about those animals, and watches any of the videos that relate. It's been especially helpful for her to watch videos showing such animal life as octopuses, starfish, worms, sponges, and jellyfish, as these can't be observed 'in the wild' where we live! There are instructions for for making an eco-column to observe insects, which we should be able to do pretty soon, now that spring is here and there are insects to be found outside.
Supercharged Science review
I do want Landon to do as many of the experiments and hands-on activities as possible. The instructions are clear and with video demonstration of many of them, it's easy to figure out and be sure that we're setting them up correctly. Even though these activities didn't relate directly to Kennady's science study, she enjoyed working alongside Landon with these activities that explored how cells work. They had a fantastic time experimenting with the cell walls of cotton, adding cotton balls (or squares, which was all I had on hand) to a completely full glass of water.
Supercharged Science review
They also worked together on this celery stalk experiment, which explored how colored water moves up through the stalk and whether factors such as water temperature affect the speed. We were disappointed that I only had green food coloring, which made the effect less dramatic, but still noticeable. Of course, my kids drew faces on the celery stalks and we had "Celery Hot Tub Parties" for a couple of days while we worked on this one!
Supercharged Science review
Landon worked on this osmosis experiment on his own. Two potato slices - one in salt water and one in fresh water - and comparison after soaking them. He complained that he couldn't see a big difference and I told him he hadn't added enough salt to make a difference! Oops. But in his defense, when I re-read the instructions with him, it really didn't say how much salt to use.
Supercharged Science review
We do not have our own microscope, and the one we share with another family wasn't at our house during these weeks, but there are quite a few activities that involve microscope study that Landon will be able to do soon.
When I first looked at the biology units, I thought this might well be worth a high school credit, provided the student did all the lab work and kept a good journal, and perhaps did an extra research assignment along the way. However, seeing that the text portions state that they are best for K-8, I am revising my own opinion slightly, and I think that some additional assignments - research and/or reading - should be added for students in high school; or the program can be used along with one of the high school level textbooks noted in the Conversion Charts. For my student, who is not planning on being a science major at all, e-Science plus some supplemental reading and research will be enough.

What we liked best:
  • the videos provide an easy way for students to see things such as microscopic and marine animals that they might not be readily able to view otherwise. The videos are mostly short, and the ones with instruction by Aurora Lipper are particularly engaging simply because she is clearly having a great time talking about science. And she is an excellent teacher.
  • very little teacher prep was needed. I basically looked at the supply lists and the hands-on activities to make sure we have what's needed on hand to do the activities we need.
  • although it's a web-based program, it really does encourage lots of hands-on interaction because the videos are short and demonstrate how easy and fun it can be to actually DO the activities.
What I need to mention:
  • there is a ton of stuff on the website, so it can be overwhelming. Do plan on starting with the Unit Zero Overview and Scientific Method. Do read through that User Guide too. If you are already using another science curriculum, check out the Conversion Charts to save yourself trying to figure out how to integrate it on your own.
  • if you need to have printed material and want those texts for reading on paper, you will need a high quality and speedy printer and plenty of ink. Or, you may want to consider having it printed at an office supply store.
  • you will need reliable internet to watch all the videos. We usually paused the video right at the beginning until it had loaded completely so that we weren't annoyed by the stuttering while trying to watch.
Our bottom line: Even though I feel like Landon would need a few extras in order to get full value of a high school credit, we still love this program. It makes all kinds of science topics fun and easy to understand, and it has sparked interest in several things that my kids would have bypassed otherwise. It's easy to use and lets kids explore topics that interest them. I really love the Mathemagic section and the Science Fair projects too, and plan to get more use out of those in the remaining months of our school year. 
Supercharged eScience Review
Would Supercharged Science be a good fit for your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website:
For a sampling of what e-Science has to offer homeschoolers, you may want to try this Free Copy of the Science Activity Video Series and Guidebook.
Visit the Getting Started page, check out the information on the Help page, and look over the User Guide. Here's the link to the Conversion Charts as well.

Pricing: the e-Science Premium Membership is $57/month for the K-12 Level Plan. Get more info on the Pricing & Benefits page.
You may want to take advantage of a special offer to readers of the Schoolhouse Crew reviews of Supercharged Science - Full Access to e-Science for one month for just $1

Recommended Ages: all grade levels, K-12

Follow Supercharged Science on Facebook, on Twitter, or on Google+. Check out their Pinterest board or the Supercharged Science blog.

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