Friday, February 28, 2014

Science4Us- TOS Crew Review

Featured Review

If you have been following us for long, you know already that teaching science is hard for me.  It is not that I do not like science, it is just that I struggle with teaching it.  I am always on the lookout for anything out there that can help make science more fun for me.  I mean, for my kids.

That is why I was excited to be able to review, an online science program for kids grades K-2nd.   I have a boy that likes science.  I have a boy who likes the computer.  Perfect fit I hoped!

Guess what?  I was right!  Yay me!  Yay Science4Us!  Let me tell you about it.

Science4Us Online subscription is an interactive online science program for kids Kindergarten through 2nd grade that costs $7.95 per child per month.  When you log in you have a choice of four Books of Science to study- Physical Science, Inquiry, Life Science and Earth and Space.  Within each of those books are numerous modules (28 total) and then within each module are lessons.  Yes, it is enough to keep you busy for quite a while.  Once you choose where you would like to start, there are about 11-12 activities for each module.  Five areas covered in every lesson are engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate.  Additional lessons cover multiple skills with activities like note booking, alphabetizing and playing games, but are slightly different in each module so that your child will not get bored.  The lessons last from just a few minutes to about 20, with the explaining lesson usually being the longest.  Within that lesson is a part called Show What You Know that asks questions to the child about what is being learned.  Some of those questions are open ended discussion questions for you to have with your child to see what they are retaining while others include choosing the correct answer.  If your child chooses incorrectly, that lesson will be replayed for them and they will have the chance to choose the right answer again.  Another example of an activity is one called Silly Bulls.  In it you put the vocabulary being learned into the right spelling order- broken down into syllables.  Get it?  Silly Bulls- Syllables?!  My son thought it was hysterical and often did this activity multiple times so he could see the bulls dance.  Each time the child comes back to their page their recent activity is checked off so they know where to start next.

Science4Us Review
Under the area labeled My Tools, your child can access a glossary of words used for review or if they need a refresher on a word meaning.  There is also a button called mini explain that has 1-2 minute videos that will further explain a term or phrase they might run into and are unfamiliar with.

And then there is the Teacher's account.  Once you log into this area you will find even more.  Lesson plans are available for each module along with corresponding worksheets that you can print out for your child.   There are different lesson pages available to print for Kindergarten, 1st graders and 2nd graders. Objectives are shown as well as an estimated time for that particular lesson.  Your child can take the evaluating tests on their screen, or you can print out a slightly different version from this area as well.  You can also access your child's progress reports and actually assign specific activities for your child to see when they log into their page.  Been a while since you did science?  There are professional development videos for each module for a quick refresher.  From this teacher's page, you can also access your child's notebook to check their activities and even make your own notes on those pages.  

Science4Us Review
Which brings me back to the notebook feature on your child's page.  Each child has a notebook in which they can take notes, draw pictures or do assigned worksheets.  This is by far our favorite part of the site.  Just about anything your child could do on their own notebook paper, they can do here, including change colors, size of font, label, draw free hand or use shapes.  You can even embed a Venn or bar graph!  In addition to that, once they are done and have saved their work they can print it out, or as I mentioned you can see it from your teacher's screen page.

So how did we use Science4Us?  Well, originally I had planned to use this as a supplemental science program.  That lasted about a week when we were accessing the student's page only and allowing my 6 year old to work at his own pace.  Once I had time to explore the teacher's page and find the lesson plans and worksheets, we put aside our current science curriculum and used Science4Us exclusively. Which, by the way, is what we will continue to do through the end of this program.  I did assign CJ portions for a while which I think is a really neat feature, but eventually I stopped doing so and allowed him to work at his own pace.  Usually he wanted to do many more lessons than I had scheduled so I stared printing out the whole modules' worth of lessons and activity pages and then kept them by our computer ready for whatever lessons we covered.  I think for someone teaching multiple children the scheduling function would be of great help, but since it is just the two of us, we were much more flexible to how long we could do science.

Because we were studying animals when this review started, CJ chose to start with the Life book.  The two units were Living Things, which covered Plants, Animals and Living and Nonliving things, and then Balance in Nature which covered Food Webs, Habitats and Eco Awareness.  So far our favorite has been the section on habitats.  He has sorted pictures into habitats, made pictures of his favorite habitats and matched habitats to their descriptions.

So what did we think?  For a family who tends to push science off, I can tell you that we used this program consistently at least four days a week.  This has actually been one of the hardest reviews I have written because there is just so much to the program that I would like to tell you about.  What I saw when we just signed in and let CJ do his own thing pleased me.  What I discovered after exploring the teachers site and attending a webinar on the program thrilled me. (I highly recommend you spend the time to do both!)  If you are looking for a web based science program for your younger elementary kids that they can do independently, you have found the right place.  For those who are in need of a little more help, you can hover over areas and it will be read to you.  If you are looking for a more detailed approach with lessons plans to guide you, you have found the right place as well.  You can pick what you need!  While I know this program is listed for kindergarten to 2nd grade, I am going to tell you that I think that most 3rd graders would benefit from it as well.  This program is not dumbed down!  Words like eco awareness are used, activities requiring alphabetizing are used and big concepts are taught.   There is no doubt that after a year of Science4Us your child will have a strong science start.  I am thrilled to have a program that takes the pain out of teaching science and puts the fun and learning back in.

You can find Science4Us here-

There are also some interactive demos online that you can try out to see what you think and an iPad app coming soon.

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