Firecracker loves science. He absorbs it, recites scientific facts to everyone he knows, and he has a strong desire to experiment and discover the answer to the question “What happens if…?” So, when I received the opportunity to review Supercharged Science, I couldn’t pass it up.
I received a six month e-Science Premium Membership online subscription. This subscription can be used with all students K-12, and if you have K-8 students, the membership is $37 per month. If you have a 9th-12th grader, the subscription fee is $57 per month and includes some expanded materials.
The site is huge. There are 20 different units of e-science. They range from working on force and gravity to such things as astrophysics and electronics. There’s plenty of life science included as well. I can’t imagine that there could be many topics that you’d want to find out about that you couldn’t on the Supercharged Science website. If you want to work on topics based on grade level, she has a section where topics and experiments are arranged in this manner too.
To use the e-science membership, you’ll need a computer and a high speed internet connection. A big part of the program is video based, with Aurora directly teaching via video or through demonstration of an experiment. There will also be student exercise worksheets and text pages you’ll want to print out. (High school students have more detailed text pages and math-based exercises and problems to solve in relation to the unit of study.)
Each unit also has a list of supplies that your child will need to complete the experiments. Many of these are household objects. However, other supplies will need to be purchased, and you may even find yourself needing specific pieces off of Amazon or Radio Shack to complete some of the more impressive experiments.
Aurora suggests that you look through the unit and decide which experiments you want to complete before you begin making purchases. There are many experiments illustrating different aspects of the same principles in the units and you may find that you only want to do a few in each unit.
Even with that, we still found ourselves making purchases and a small trip to Radio Shack. For the first time ever, we’ve set up a box in our house dedicated to science supplies so that everything that we would need to complete the experiments would be the right spot when it came time for science. (There’s not really yogurt in the box. I just have some smaller items stashed away in an old yogurt container!)
We looked at several different topics, trying to find just the right topic for us to begin with. After much discussion between Firecracker and Rose, we decided to just start at the beginning with Unit 1: Mechanics.
Each unit starts with a basic introduction. There’s some introductory text and a video where you can listen to Aurora introduce the subject. You can download a basic text for reading to your student and you can also download a shopping list. It has everything that you will need if you do every experiment in the unit. You’ll customize that, of course, based on the experiments that you actually choose complete.
Units are broken down into individual lessons. The mechanics unit that we started with was broken down into three lessons: Force, Gravity, and Friction. Within these lessons, there is format of an additional introduction to the concepts in the lesson, reading to download (especially for 9th-12th grade students), a section of additional videos and experiments, and exercises. Exercises is actually the term that Supercharged Science uses for its written review/assessment of lesson concepts.
We used this product three to four days a week. We would watch the introduction and read the material to the lesson the first day. Then, we would begin the experiment videos. These experiments and experiment videos are the heart of the Supercharged Science curriculum.
We usually would only move at the pace of one video/experiment per day. We did this for two reasons.
First, each video has with it a worksheet with extensions for taking the science experiment further. What we would do was to watch the video while performing the experiment as Aurora was performing and explaining on the computer. We would frequently pause the video to do what she told us to do. Then, we would complete the experiment as written in the worksheet. Frequently, other variables were tested, or you would make formal measurements that were not a part of the instructional video. Also, at the end of each student worksheet, there was a set of questions that helped us to connect the fun experiment that we did with the actual science concepts.
The second reason is purely a selfish one. Firecracker would have kept going and done science for the whole day, but doing experiments is time consuming and can be exhausting when you have four children all wanting to do the same experiment. Since I’m a believer in slow and steady progress, we kept our pace slow and deep. I knew that the concepts we were exploring were sinking in. After all, the children were discussing forces and gravity in their playtime. They were making their own zip lines for gravity and applying magnets and ideas about magnets to the other subjects they were exploring.
By the time your student reaches each lesson’s exercises, if you’ve done the experiments and thought about the concepts, the exercises themselves are merely review and a breeze to complete.
How did I like the program? There’s a ton of information included on the videos. The introductory and lesson videos were a little over the children’s head. The reading assignments also passed over the children’s heads for the most part. Aurora is speaking to a K-12 audience, and she doesn’t talk down to her students. She explains concepts and terms that interested my third grader but were kind of boring for my first grader. I would say that, based on the actual concepts explained in the lessons that we worked on, I would say that the “science” part of the program is best for middle elementary and up. Firecracker proved very capable in understanding and retaining most of the science concepts we studied. It just took time for them to become concrete in his head.
The experiments are really cool. Super cool. All the children from the nine year old down to the two year old wanted to participate in the experiments. The easy ones worked out great, whether we needed special materials or not. In fact, we spent an entire afternoon working on different bridge configurations and then trying to destroy those bridges with different loads, earthquakes and strong winds. I love that it’s hands-on because I feel that students retain so much more from a hands-on model.
Of course, sometimes we dealt with tantrums and frustrated crying from the hands-on portion of the experiment. Who knew that building a barrel bridge or a hovercraft could make a child through the materials across the room and vow to never do science again? I didn’t until we experienced the agony of not being able to replicate the an experiment. Not to worry though. Firecracker was back to asking to do science the next day. Even Saturdays were good days in his book for doing science experiments.
I think this is a very good, solid product. It’s expensive for a science program, but it’s also a complete science program with all you would need to teach the same concepts, especially if you have students at multiple levels. The price of the subscription is for the whole family’s use, not for individual students. You will spend money for supplies also, but if you’re using a good strong science program, especially for robotics, chemistry or engineering, you should expect to budget money to pursue those interests.
If you’re thinking about Supercharged Science, and you’re own the fence, I think the best way to decide whether or not the program is for you is to try some of Aurora’s free materials. You can sign up for a Free Copy of the Science Activity Video Series and Guidebook. You’ll be able to judge how well the program fits with your family’s needs after you try some of her free products. You’ll also be subscribed to their mailing list, and they frequently send out links to free videos and experiments for you to try.
As for us, one of Firecracker’s main interest areas is science. Working with this program has been a great experience for us to dip our toes into doing real “big-kid” science experiments and concepts. I think that I have a more reasonable view now of what it takes to set up a good experiment, and I think he has really benefited from being exposed to the high quality of experiments and activities that Supercharged Science has to offer.
If you’re ready to dive in and purchase a subscription, Supercharged Science is offering your first month’s membership for $1. I think that once you try your first month, you won’t want to cancel anytime soon.