I am admittedly not gifted in Science. I cannot stand it. I barely passed it in school. I am not one of those cool homeschool moms that stop the presses to check out bugs, snakes, washed up animals on the beach. I will not be dissecting things with my children when they get to that point. I will, without a doubt, farm them out to someone to complete that task! This attitude does not bode well for me because, you see, my children LOVE science…. Big Sis in particular is an all hands on deck science lover. When the opportunity came up to review Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) from Visual Learning Systems, I jumped on it!
We received a one year subscription to both the Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) and the Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12). Because my children are 10, 8, 5 , and 3, we chose to use the elementary edition. This is an internet based curriculum that worked with no problems on our laptop (we have Windows 8 and use Chrome).
The Visual Learning Systems Program is an online Science curriculum that offers the following:
- Videos–The primary content of this science program is the videos. The elementary edition offers videos that are about 15 minutes long. The format of the videos took me back to elementary school. They were engaging to my kids, but had (in my opinion) some cheesy music that transitioned between scenes. My kids loved it and hummed along!
- Animations–These are approximately 10-30 second animations from the videos that are isolated from the video. This is a great way to get a snapshot of specific concepts without having to watch the entire video.
- Images–These are isolated graphics from individual lessons.
- Teacher’s Guide–The teacher’s guides d have multiple parts to help you expand a unit or a science class based on the information found in the video. The teacher’s guide includes:
- Student learning objectives
- An introductory activity or question
- Literature connections. These are both living science picture books and related picture book fiction.
- A video script with key vocabulary highlighted
- Answer keys for student masters
- Pre-test and post-test
- a Video review to be able to write answers to the “You Decide” questions and the video quiz
- Worksheet based activities that include labeling, writing characteristics, word searches and occasional cutting and pasting.
When we first logged in, I had my son (who is 10) take a look and decide which topic he wanted to explore. He got to choose between physical, earth or life science. He chose physical which covers matter, electricity, chemical reactions, etc. He has been thrilled to watch the videos and do some experiments at home. The girls have also enjoyed watching the videos. One component of the videos is review. Questions are asked. I’ve noticed that everyone… even the five year old likes to answer.
I have not been using every worksheet that is offered with the lessons. I pick and choose which ones we use. I searched and could not find a master list of materials needed for the duration of the course. Some experiments require everyday household objects, but others are very specific… like 3 wires with alligator clips, a 6 volt battery and 6 volt light bulb. When using this curriculum, I would advise planning well ahead so that you are not taken by surprise when doing the activities.
The kids have been thrilled to make Visual Learning Systems part of our weekly science. I like it because it is easy to follow, the work is laid out and a non- Science person like me can implement the lessons successfully. I also like that it is not simply an online curriculum. It affords many opportunities to do hands on work. One of the kids’ favorites has been testing materials with an electric circuit to decide if it is a conductor or an insulator. We had to be a little creative with the materials we used. We did not have the specific items listed so we used pieces of our Snap Circuit Jr. Kit. We generally do at least one hands on activity together per week.
We will continue to use Visual Learning Systems as part of our regular school week. I will not, however, be renewing my subscription after this year. I think that this curriculum is great and complete. I think that it can be used in a homeschool or classroom setting. It might work well for a co-op or enrichment class. However, as far as I can tell… this curriculum does not teach from a Biblical worldview. To be completely honest, I did not delve far into the other topics (life or earth science), but I am aware that phrases like “millions of years” are used. I have not been able to find anything on the website to indicate that it is taught from a Biblical Worldview and for our homeschool, that is the perspective that I am wanting to use in all our subjects.
Having said that, I am excited to have this resource on hand. The kids are enjoying watching the videos and doing the activities. I’m thankful for the opportunity to use it.