Thursday, April 11, 2013

Supercharged Science Online learning program

Science is something that is often considered challenging to teach, although it is also often one of the most intriguing subjects to investigate if your mind is of a curious bent. That's why my family appreciated one of my latest reviews, offered by Supercharged Science, a one year subscription to Supercharged Science's  e-Science online learning program. 
One of the best ways for you to get an overview of the program is to check out one of the links above or click on the graphic to the left and explore the videos and links included on that page. However, before you head right on over, let me try to give you a quick synopsis of the program. 

Supercharged Science is filled with over 1000 experiments and activities/projects throughout 19 (Soon to be 20) different units. These units encompass essential scientific concepts from mechanics, matter, and magnetism to astrophysics, chemistry, biology, and many more. Most of the units are multi-age, while others are written specifically for the high-school student, but even those can catch the interest of a younger curious mind (a little more on that in a bit).

The core of the program in my opinion is the incredible number of extremely detailed and engaging videos featuring Aurora Lipper, the owner of Supercharged Science and a bonafide rocket scientist. There are videos that introduce each unit and lesson, to catch the student's interest, as well as videos of experiment demonstrations and detailed instructional videos to carry out the experiments/projects/activities yourself. Aurora is very pleasant to listen to, and even throws in the occasional joke or entertaining thought or story. You can get a feel for her style in this video talking about her program:

And here is a sample experiment video: Making an Air Horn

Beyond that, there are lesson plans, and all the resources needed to use this as a stand-alone core science curriculum. The basic structure:
  • Highlights page
  • Introductory Video 
  • Reading Text (Which can printed if desired)
  • Experiments and Videos
  • Exercises   
For those that are already committed to another science program, but would like to add a little "punch" to their studies, Supercharged Science can be an excellent supplement. 

To make using Supercharged Science as a supplement easier, they have even created "Conversion Charts" to help you match up lessons and experiments with the science program that you are already using. Just as promised on the website, if the book you are using isn't already included with the 20+ publishers listed, feel free to send Supercharged Science a Table of Contents, and they will put together a conversion chart for your book. This works very well! I didn't see "Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology" included in the Apologia pdf, so I emailed a link to the TOC, and was sent a nifty chart to use with my middlest. (Thank you!) 

Another plus~ when one signs up as a member they are not given access to the entire library of units, simply to help avoid information overload. Each month you are typically given access to a couple of units. If they don't fit what you want to study at the time, the folks at Supercharged Science are happy to make sure that you have access to the units that are appropriate for your studies in response to a simple email request. Nice! :)

Additionally, members are always welcome to comment and ask questions for any of the units/lessons, etc. . . and Aurora often joins in on the discussion. :) 
Remember I mentioned even the youngest may enjoy some of the high school material? When my Eldest and I sat down to watch the introductory Chemistry video, Youngest hung out and was riveted by the conversation about the use of chemicals and the possibility (???) of changing lead to gold by manipulating the atomic number! Oh yeah... Alchemy is alive and well... ;) (Well.... kinda... not really,  but for my little MineCraft fiend, this was VERY interesting listening for him, and now he wants to get a particle accelerator... ;) ) 
Some experiments and projects that we have enjoyed during our review period:


Middlest has started using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology, and this project creating a "robotic hand" not only fit in with the study of bones, muscles and ligaments, but was also right up his alley. 

The project is carefully demonstrated in a step-by-step video, which was fairly easy for Middlest to follow on his own. We did employ a couple of modifications, the most obvious being that we used much thinner cardboard than was called for, which meant modifying the "joints" in the fingers. Here you see the front and back of the hand:

and here you can see the hand in action:

Middlest has already decided that these were just prototypes, and that he wants to make a couple more. He would like to experiment with seeing how the hand curls with different baseball pitch/holds, and he was having fun making the "peace sign",  holding up 2 fingers, then 3, etc...  


The next experiment is one that has been making the rounds on pinterest, etc, but we hadn't tried it just yet. Have you seen "microwaving Ivory soap" yet? We used a control soap (A sample of Dove) and a block of Ivory soap that we cut down to a similar size. We first discovered the relative density of each soap (Dove sank to the bottom of a cup of water, Ivory floated), and discussed WHY the Ivory floated (Air particles trapped inside). We also talked about what happens when water heats up (It gets "excited" and moves faster). Then we popped the soap in the microwave.

Now... I have to be upfront here, and mention that the Ivory Soap we used is a vintage left-over from a soap-carving project many many moons (aka years) ago.... and I noticed as I took it out that the packaging was looking rather "old and wrinkled/dehydrated." However, I like to use the materials I have on hand, so this is what we used. Turns out that the soap WAS dehydrated, and the end result was not nearly as spectacular as I had hoped. Even so, the difference between the "Dense" Dove soap, and the "Whipped with Air" Ivory Soap when heated was enough to come to the correct conclusion~ that  there were some water molecules trapped in the air bubbles inside the soap, and when they were heated up~ well, they wanted to get out of there! :) (Plans are to go get a fresh bar of Ivory soap and try again~ so I'll probably edit this post to add in at least one new photo. :) )

I think most of my pros were listed above, but I do have one semi-con/disclosure that I felt should mention. Once you are on the Supercharged Science email list (not as a paying customer, but a free subscriber), you will be receiving on average 10 emails/month. Some of them are definitely interesting and include great resources, but there are also a number of "Sales Pitch" emails. I have no problem ignoring them until something catches my eye, but I know many folks who find these sorts of emails very annoying. 

I mention this to simply say~ don't let the "soft/hard" sell emails deter you from checking out the fantastic program and resources being offered~ while the marketing is not my favorite style, the program is really, REALLY cool! :) 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.



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