Friday, February 28, 2014

Early Elementary Science Activities with {A TOS Review}

Science4Us Review

We have always enjoyed our little science observations to explore God's great creation. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know we love hands-on learning. From fruit fly observations and caterpillar metamorphosis to exploring outside and coming home with tons of nature finds for our science table we have enjoyed science. However, as the girls are now getting older I want to make sure we are learning all we can and should be learning. We still love our hands-on observations, but mommy can't always explain everything satisfactorily and I know the girls love to be able to dig deeper, plus there are just some things we can't do at home. So, I hope you can understand when I say I was thrilled when we were picked to review the Online Subscription from I was intrigued to discover it was from the creators of because we reviewed that last year and the girls really enjoy it.

This wonderful online science curriculum is geared for early elementary students, K-2nd grade, making it perfect for Tabitha and Amelia, though it can be used by 3rd-5th graders as a review. Even Hannah has been enjoying having her own account and she only just turned 4. With, children are given "foundational science knowledge" with a curriculum that is complete and standards-based. This knowledge is gained as they view the videos, answer questions, write and draw in their digital notebooks, and interact with onscreen experiments. In addition, there are detailed lesson plans for the teacher/parent which include additional printable worksheets and activities to dig deeper into the material.

Each module of the curriculum is built using the 5E Inquiry-Based Instructional Model. If you are not sure what that is referring to, you are not alone. I had no idea what that meant when I first researched the program. However, it is very easy to understand. The 5 E's are:

  • Engage
  • Explore
  • Explain
  • Elaborate
  • Evaluate
Every module starts out with a lesson that helps to access what the student already knows about the subject, helping to determine any misconceptions. This is the Engage portion of the module. The next lesson helps the child to develop understanding and generate ideas, this is the Explore part. In the lesson that is based on Explain they are given pertinent vocabulary and descriptions of the new concept. Then there are a variety of different lessons/activities to help them Elaborate or enhance their understanding through in-depth learning experiences. Finally the teacher/parent and student are able to Evaluate what they have learned.

We were given a 6 month membership in which the children and I each get our own accounts. In my teacher account I have access to the lesson plans from which I can decide which lessons I am going to assign in which module and I can view the girls progress and their assignments. It is quite easy to navigate the website. When I log into my account I hover over the Teaching Tools tab and a menu will drop down.

I can choose to go to View Assignments, Student Reports, Lesson Plans, Teaching Strategies or the Notebook.

The same Teaching Tools selections can also be found at the bottom of the page along with some extremely helpful videos to help the parent/teacher come to a better understanding of the program.

What exactly will you find in each section?
  • Lesson Plans will allow you to see details of the lessons.
For each module you will get a description, core concept, essential vocabulary, and professional development resources, which you can find on the left side of the screen. You can then view details for each lesson on the right. The blue bar at the top will show you which of the 5 E's are being addressed in the lesson. they recommend doing the first 3 lessons in order, to make sure they have a good grasp of the subject being taught. Each lesson has an Objective plus Teacher Support materials and printable Offline Materials. You can even choose to assign the lesson to your children directly from this page. Note the "Quick Assign" in the top left orange bar.

  • Teaching Strategies contains a slew of resources for the teacher in 3 different categories.
  1. Prior Knowledge Strategies
  2. Literacy Skills Strategies
  3. Lesson Follow-Up Strategies
  • Student Reports allows the parent/teacher to view their children's Overall Progress along with details for each module or lesson.
I can see all of the girls' overall usage, including when they last logged in, how many times they logged in, how many activities they completed and how many they opened, the total time spent and how much work they have saved.

I can then choose to view each individual child's saved work:

From here I can see all the activities that Tabitha saved which include notebook work and activities in the lesson. I can click on each entry to enlarge it, check it and leave comments on it.

Or I can choose to view the assignments that have been completed in a specific module:

From here I can see all that the children did in the Animals module which can be found under the Life category. A star shows that the assignment was completed and a score is shown if applicable. Anything highlighted in blue can be clicked on to see further details.
I could also choose to see the total time spent on each lesson, the date they first attempted the lesson and the date they completed it. In the screen shot above you can see the drop down menu which says "Scores and Completions," this is where you can choose which to view.
  • Assignments allows the parent/teacher to see which assignments have been assigned. You can choose to edit the assignments, changing the beginning and/or ending dates or adding an assignment. 
There are two assignments here because I gave Hannah her own assignment as some of the lessons are above her ability to complete. One assignment could be assigned for all the girls as long as I chose to give them all the same lessons.

  • There is also a Notebook in the parent/teacher account, but I haven't figured out exactly what I would use that for. The children have their own digital notebook that they use in each lesson. That will be found in their student reports.
So, how have we been using Let me tell you a bit about that.

When we first received our membership I was not quite aware of what all was available in the Lesson Plans section. I wanted to get the children started working right away because they had such fun viewing the demo videos when we were researching the program. There are 4 main modules to choose from and each one has sub-modules.

  • Inquiry
  1. Science Skills
  • Physical
  1. Matter
  2. Energy
  3. Force and Motion
  • Life
  1. Living Things
  2. Balance in Nature
  • Earth/Space
  1. Earth
  2. Space

As we had been focusing on so many different animals in our My Father's World curriculum I decided we would start in the Life module in the Animals section under Living Things. I assigned the girls all of the lessons available for Animals. It was quite simple.

You choose which activities you want to assign, then you choose the date they are to start and when they should have it completed, then you choose which students are going to use this assignment.

The girls then log into their account. Here is a screenshot of what they see as soon as they log in.

The part they really focus on is the My Assignments box in the middle of the screen, however, they could also choose their own lesson to complete from the "Choose a Book of Science" section on the right. In the left corner they are able to view their notebook and the assignment details. They can check out their student reports as well to see how they are doing. A parent could also check their child's scores from here instead of logging into their own account. Additionally, there is a glossary of all the vocabulary words for each module.

From the log in screen they can click on which assignment they want to work on. Once they click on an assignment it will start loading.

The children have been known to complete multiple lessons in one sitting. When we first started, they would all gather around the computer and watch the videos at the same time. 

I have since decided that one child can use it at a time while the other works on their workboxes. 

As they complete assignments they get a star on the assignment icon so they know which ones they need to work on. They are able to redo assignments if they so choose. They work their way through the assignments, answering questions and drawing pictures in their digital notebook 

 There are many different kinds of interactive activities.

They explore their vocabulary words with Silly Bulls, putting them together from mixed up syllables. They can also expand their vocabulary through fun animated songs. They loved creating their own pet in the Explore Animals activity. And in the Explain section of the module they learned quite a bit about animals, including needs, parts, responses, reproduction, and life cycles.
Each module has different games and activities making the learning experience new and interesting. 
Once I discovered the Lesson Plans section I began having the children slow down a bit on the online assignments so we could explore the lessons in more detail. I was able to choose from the Offline Materials for the lessons that I thought the girls would enjoy. We didn't do every lesson that was available. If I saw that one of the girls were struggling with the material I figured the extra material would be great to work on together or for additional material for their workboxes if I thought they could do it independently. 
After finishing up the Animal unit we moved onto Plants (also under the Living Things sub-module).

From there we moved to Living and Nonliving Things. We then changed modules completely and went into the Earth's Materials lessons of the Earth/Space Module. Which helped us segue into our new units of Rocks and then Jewels with My Father's World. 

I then thought it would be fun to move onto the Physical Module. The Physical Module is broken down into three units: Matter, Energy, Force & Motion.  Conveniently, they were learning about matter in their science class at co-op. 

Here Tabitha is introducing the lesson from what she already remembered before we started working on the printable worksheet from the lesson

They then went on to answer the questions comparing solids and liquids.
I love how flexible Science4Us.come is. We were able to use it to expand on the lessons from both our main curriculum and co-op. The online lessons capture the children's interest and they are always asking to do their science. It is possible to use with younger students, but they will need more parental guidance, especially when trying to use the notebook. Tabitha loves being able to draw pictures in her notebook and enjoyed creating her own living thing. Amelia loves learning about the facts, especially when the worm in the lab was teaching them. She loved learning about what was solid and what was liquid, and about different plants, like the cacti and fly traps.  Mommy really enjoys that they can do virtual science experiments, watching things happen on the screen and recording the results. Yes we love hands-on experiments, but some things are just easier to watch. is $7.95 per month per child. Though this is a wonderful price for all the information and lessons that are here (over 350 lessons) I am not sure whether we will be able to justify that amount per month for 3 children. I can definitely see that this would be quite affordable with only one child though.
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