My children love science. Almost everything they want to do and everything that they choose to learn about at this point in their journey is science. So, when I had the opportunity to review Science4Us.com, I knew that the children would be excited to get the chance to use it.
We received a six month Science4Us.com online subscription.. We received subscriptions for both Firecracker and Rose. Each child that uses this subscription service will need a separate student account, and their current pricing is $7.95 per month per account. (If you are a classroom teacher or have a large co-op, they do offer special group pricing if you need 30 or more accounts.)
Science4Us.com is intended to be used as a full science program for students in Kindergarten through second grade. However, they also offer it as a review of science concepts for third through fifth graders. Rose is a first-grader and is in the intended age range. Firecracker is a third-grader, but because we are interest-led homeschoolers, many of the science concepts presented were ones that he had not encountered before.
There are a few things that you will need to use this subscription service:
- Computer with internet connection faster than dial-up. You’ll be streaming videos and interactive games. You will also be occasionally using the internet for research.
- Computer Printer and ink
- Standard school supplies, such as crayons, pencil, construction paper, glue
- Occasional household items for offline activities. We have not encountered anything that we’ve had to buy specifically for this program.
When you set up a student account for Science4Us.com, they will automatically set up a teacher account for you. When you log in, you’ll see a screen that looks like this:
The first thing that you should do is to click on the Welcome box and watch the getting started tutorial. This will introduce you to all the tools that you have at your disposal for lesson planning, keeping track of your students’ progress, and assessing your students.
Science4Us.com covers four main areas of science. These areas are inquiry (science tools), physical science, life science, and earth/space science. The modules in these four units create a total of 28 modules. Each module is a two week (8 day) unit.
Once you’ve logged into the teacher side of Science4Us.com and picked out a module to start on, you can pull up that module’s teacher screen under lesson plans. The screen below is for the physical science teacher guide to materials and mixtures.
The left hand side of the screen will stay stationary. It has the module overview, core concept, science vocabulary, and a professional development session. The professional development section is valuable for helping to develop your knowledge on the topic. There are videos and printable explanations under this section that will help you with the concepts as well as well as give you some help in clearing up common student misconceptions as well as extending these concepts into the real world.
If you look at the right hand side of the above screenshot, you’ll see that you can flip among eight pages. These pages are the eight days of science for the unit. Each day has an interactive computer based teaching component, a teacher guide and offline materials.
The computer based teaching component is the module activity for the day that the student can access through his or her online account.
The teacher guide includes a plan for teaching through the day’s lesson. It includes discussion questions and often extended activities around the modules.
The offline materials are additional activities that extend and enhance the lesson. They are often hands-on, and require additional research and experimentation to complete.
Once you’ve gone through these materials and printed out what you need for your offline activities, you can then use “quick assign” on the left hand side of the teacher page to create an assignment for your children on their pages.
As a teacher, you can also go to each module you’ve assigned under student reports, check the reports to see if your student has done his/her assignment, and if it is a graded assignment, you can check and see what their score was. You can also write them notes in their interactive student notebooks and respond to their assignments that way.
Now, it’s time for your child to get started. When they log in, they’ll see a page that looks like this:
They can access any module from the books of science. They can go down to assignments and do the assignments that you’ve left them. They can play the music player. They can look through their science notebook and print pages out. They can look at “recent activity” and access other activities in the module that they’re working on in from the recent activity portion of the screen.
They have their own video they can watch to help them get around if they need to, but I can attest that my children have both found getting around in Science4Us.com very intuitive and user friendly.
For my use with my own children, I did not do any of the preparation work or assigning pieces that I described above. I included that description because I wanted you to know what a powerful tool Science4Us.com is in planning complete units of science. I wanted to you to know that it is a complete science program that has a curriculum guide that you can go through and direct as best suits your family.
With my own children, I followed their lead. I let Firecracker and Rose decide which modules they wanted to study. Then, I went through the teacher side of the site and printed out the offline activities that I wanted us to use with the module.
For example, Rose chose her first unit to be the weather. I went through the weather side of the teacher site and printed off all the offline activities for first graders in the weather module so that I could sort through and decide which offline activities would most enrich her experience of the weather module. Then, I divided her science time to where she spent half of her time on the computer and half with me doing offline activities to cement and extend her learning.
Firecracker chose exploring the universe to be his first module, so we completed that the same way. The only difference in how I did the science was that I chose the second grade offline activities for him. The photo collage you see below includes some of the photos I took of our computer screen as the children were doing the online portion of their work.
I’m also including a photo collage here of some of the hands-on portions of Science4Us.com. As you can tell from the screen shots, my children did a lot of cutting and sorting pictures into groups. They did some unscrambling words. Firecracker got to write a two page newsletter that involved learning how to write an acrostic poem.
The hands-on portions were not experiments most of the time, but instead were more drawing, classifying, writing and the occasional project. My favorite project that we’ve done so far is the collage type activity that Firecracker did to create a “slice of the universe” from below ground to space. There are occasional hands-on experimental type projects and there are also some information gathering projects. For example, when Rose did the weather, she had to do a two week morning and afternoon temperature reading and then graph those readings.
We have enjoyed our time with Science4Us.com. The online portions of the lessons are easy to walk through. They’re interactive. They quiz the student’s knowledge as the student goes along in a way that allows them to correct their misconceptions or mistakes throughout the unit. The children also feel like, at times, they’re playing a video game. In fact, my two year old keeps asking me if she can “play Science4Us.”
The lessons are common core aligned, and I like that they have the literacy and math components. Rose did not know how to alphabetize before we started science for us. Now, after encountering it in most units, she is a alphabetizing whiz. She has also become a better reader by sorting words by their syllables.
Even better than that, Firecracker has learned what an acrostic poem is and composed his own. He’s had to write descriptions and think about what those descriptions should be through the offline activities that he’s done. That kind of integration is valuable in making language arts skills a part of every day life.
They’ve also both learned more about bar graphs, line graphs, tally marks and plotting points on a graph. These are math skills necessary for any type of science, and I’m glad that they had the opportunity to master these skills in a meaningful way.
As far as the science itself goes, it’s perfect for my first grader. I can tell that some of the units are a little basic for Firecracker, but they were the ones meant to be encountered by a kindergartner, not a third grader. If you’re confused about where to start with your child, they have a scope and sequence page that you can reference. It’s a handy tool for figuring out what is age appropriate for your child.
I do feel like I need to mention that the history of earth module is written from an evolutionary perspective. I know that some of my readers are looking for creation based materials and others are looking for secular materials. I don’t see it as a problem (or as a reason not to use this program), but I didn’t want any of my readers to be unaware.
For our family, this was a complete success. The children are thrilled with the program and the additional offline activities. I’m thrilled with the science and with the literacy and math integration. This is good science and good teaching of the principles of scientific inquiry.
I’m excited about how much the kids want to use this curriculum. I’ve had children pop out of bed in the morning asking for Science4Us.com. This is exactly the type of curriculum you want to use to introduce your Kindergarten-2nd grade student to the wonders of science and scientific inquiry.