Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BrainFood Learning: The Fascinating World Of Insects DVD Review

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What makes something food for the brain? I was thinking about that question when I started writing this review. The answer can be found on the BrainFood Learning website. It is "stimulating and interesting content that educates as well as entertains." That is what the founders of BrainFood Learning were looking for when they were searching for resources for their two young children. When Bryce Mooney Ph. D. and Jennifer Mooney M. Ed couldn't find what they were looking for they decided to create thier own. Thus was born the "Fascinating World of ..." video series. They have captivating videos focusing on Insects, Mammals and Birds. We were fortunate to be able to receive The Fascinating World of Insects to review with the TOS Review Crew.

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I was thrilled that we were able to expand our knowledge of insects. When we wrapped up our lessons a couple of months ago we had just concluded the units I: Insects and B: Butterflies. We have observed ants and butterflies in the past, as well as "rollie pollies," snails, and grasshoppers, and I just knew the girls would love a chance to learn some more. They are always out in the yard digging around in the dirt hunting for bugs. During the summer reading program they were able to get magnifying glasses as one of their prizes. It makes it so much more fun to observe those bugs. But it just can't compare to the lovely images found on this DVD. 

These videos captured their attention right away, I mean they were riveted to the screen. Each segment focuses on one insect and introduces a new vocabulary word.. The viewer is able to watch the insects in their natural habitat, larger than life and in vivid detail. 

At first I thought it would be fun to let the girls choose which insect they wanted to watch. The viewer has the option to "Play All" or click on the "Insects" tab to be directed to the Insects menu. From there you can choose which insect you want to focus on. Here is the list of insects we learned about on this DVD:
  • Grasshopper
  • Ladybug
  • Rhino Beetle
  • Firefly
  • Mosquito
  • Honey Bee
  • Water Strider 
  • Ant 
  • Praying Mantis
  • Dragonfly
  • Butterfly
Each segment starts off by naming the insect (both written on the screen and announced by the narrator) along with a closeup picture that stays on the screen for several seconds. Then it moves to a video of the insect where you get to watch the insect while the narrator discusses some little tidbits/facts about the insect. There are also drawings shown for some of the insects where specifics are labeled and highlighted (for example, the butterfly segment includes a drawing of the life cycle which the narrator discusses while interspersing videos of each stage). The section then concludes with a focus on a vocabulary word that was mentioned while discussing the insect. The word is shown on the screen while a different narrator, a child, says the word along with the definition. 

When you are finished viewing all of the insects you have the option to choose between the 5 different reviews which increase in difficulty. 
  • Review #1: Insect Flash Cards- The child narrator names each insect along with close up images of each insect. The images are the same ones that introduce each segment. Our only wish was that it would show the insect for a second before adding the word so the child could try to come up with the name on their own. (Time: 1 min. 40 sec.)
  • Review #2: Review Your Insects- The child narrator again helps out. We see a picture of the insect and are given multiple choice answers on the screen while the narrator says them aloud. The viewer is given approximately 12 seconds from the time the picture is on the screen and 4 seconds after the narrator names all the choices to identify the insect. Which is perfect. I have had a hard time dealing with resources where the narrator/instructor will answer immediately, not giving the child a chance to answer. Our children enjoy trying to identify the insect before the choices were even given. I appreciate that the viewer gets both the auditory and visual cues. (Time: 3 min. 36 sec.)
  • Review #3: Parts of an Insect- Shows a drawing of an ant and they label the parts of the insect from top to bottom. labeled with words and the child narrator says them aloud for the child as well. (Time: 50 sec.)
  • Review #4: Review Insect Facts- The adult narrator reads the questions on the screen and gives the answer choices, again in multiple choice format, visually and verbally. The child is again given several seconds to answer the question before the wrong answers are taken away and the narrator announces the answer along with showing a picture of the correct insect. These questions are taken from the information that is mentioned in the segments about each insect. (Time: 4 min. 30 sec.)
  • Review #5: Review the Big Words -This review section is done in the same format as review #4, except we are reviewing the vocabulary that was highlighted at the end of each segment. (Time 4 min. 45 sec.)
While it was fun for the children to be able to choose which insect to watch, if you "Play All" from the menu you will have an introduction to the DVD with an overview before it moves into each insect segment. The introduction includes what makes an insect an insect with some information about the eyes, mouth types, etc. Then we "take a peek about what makes each insect special." This is the section that you play bit by bit if you choose to watch it the way we did the first time. For viewing with the children I found that I enjoyed it more by playing the DVD in its entirety. It definitely flows better. It is 26 and a half minutes long. And then goes directly into the 16 minute total review section. When we watched each insect individually it seemed really short as each insect is focused on for only 1 1/2 to 3 minutes, with 2 minutes being the average.

At first I was disappointed in the short segments, but then I realized it is great for the short attention spans of young children and there is quite a bit of information being shared. Additionally the introduction of harder vocabulary makes it appropriate for older children as well. In fact, this mommy found herself learning right along with the children. We all learned new words and facts about insects (Do you know what the hard outer shell of a beetle is called? I didn't until I watched the DVD).

The BrainFood Website now includes a Curriculum tab where you can download lesson plans for each DVD for free. There are worksheets for reading, writing and science. While most of the activities are a bit beyond the abilities of my girls, I did print out the classification activity called The Insects Card Sort. 

Figuring out if the creatures are insects or not.

 Matching the name to the critter.

Older students can work on an Insect Cloze while watching the DVD, circling the correct answer to complete the sentence. They can also assemble an Academic Vocabulary Booklet with the Big Words and take a written quiz. 

This DVD is recommended for children ages 3-11, though younger children will enjoy watching the insects and may even pick up on some of the vocabulary and older children up to age 13 have shown interest. The free downloadable lesson plans are for elementary aged children. 

You can purchase this DVD, in addition to The Fascinating World of Birds and The Fascinating World of Mammals for $14.99. 

The members of the crew have been reviewing 1 of the 3 DVD's.
Click here to see reviews for all 3 DVDs. 

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