Sunday, April 14, 2013

REVIEW - Supercharged Science

Have you ever heard of Supercharged Science? I have heard a great deal about this company over the last few years, and have been itching to try their e-Science program. Aurora Lipper, author of the program, has a Master's degree in mechanical engineering, taught as an instructor at Cal Poly State University and worked at NASA on rockets and jets. She is a ROCKET SCIENTIST - for real! She was struck by how bored students were with science, and couldn't understand it - until she learned how most of us are taught about science in school. She set about creating her own lesson plans for science, and after teaching her first lesson to a group of local elementary students with great success, she went on to have a science camp. All this gradually evolved into Supercharged Science - a program that is fun for children and easy for adults to implement.

Aurora's approach is to teach science "from the inside out" - let children do some experiments, see how cool the results are, and then teach what's behind it all once they are hooked and excited to learn more. You don't just throw supplies at them and let them have at it, either. She encourages students to keep a science notebook, and carefully record what they do along with their results. She teaches them how to work with the scientific method and do things correctly. Here is a list of topics covered in the program:

Scientific Method Energy Light Thermodynamics Earth Science
Mechanics Sound Electricity Electronics Science Fair Projects
Motion Astrophysics Magnetism Life Science Mathemagic
Matter Chemistry Alternative Energy Biology

Would you like to see some of the things we did? I knew you would! Let's take a look, shall we?

We started out with the Scientific Method unit, because we've done very little formal science and I don't believe we've ever discussed it. The first thing they did was see how many drops of water would stay on top of a penny before it all splooshed out. Using an eye dropper, they counted the drops as they went along. It was interesting to note that Emma got quite a few more drops to stay on her penny than Abbie did.

After that, we decided to start with Unit 1, Mechanics: Force, Gravity and Friction. We had most of the supplies around the house, so it was a good place to begin. First, we read together the unit overview, vocabulary words, and text, and then I had them do some experiments. First, we looked at magnetism.

I decided that we would look at eletromagnetism using a balloon and a cat. Aurora didn't tell us to do this experiment, I promise, but it was a great deal of fun and we laughed a LOT. (No cats were injured while a balloon was stuck to them.)

Then, we went outside with a compass. I have never used a compass, and wouldn't know how to get myself anywhere with one, but they work because the magnet inside can detect the earth's magnetic field, and it makes the needle in the compass always point to the north. (The experiment was to show us that the earth *has* a magnetic field, not to understand exactly how a compass works.)

We also looked at magnetism in o-shaped cereal. It turns out that if you put some of the cereal in a bowl and stir them around so they have to move away from each other, they attract back together into a group.

Next, we took a look at gravity. This was highly entertaining for me. First, I had the girls jump into the air to see if they would come back down. Guess what? They DID! I had them repeat this a few times to make sure our hypothesis was sound. Then, we tried it with a rubber ball, and learned that, indeed, gravity still worked.

Gravity works! :-)
We moved on to find out whether an object thrown horizontally will fall at the same rate as one that is dropped (it does, much to my surprise), and then did another experiment to see if weight figured into the equation (it doesn't seem to - opposite of what I thought). These were all simple, but we had FUN while we were doing them, and they had to think about what was happening and why. After we did the experiments, we completed the corresponding exercises in their science journals.

The way the program works is this: you sign up for a monthly subscription, which costs $37 per month for grades K-8, or $57 per month for grades 9-12. For the first month, you are given access to the first seven units: Mechanics, Motion, Matter, Energy 1, Energy 2, Sound, and Astrophysics. Each month after that, you will receive access to two more units, in the order given on the website. If you see something else you want to try sooner, you can email them directly and they will give you access. Also, they have conversion charts available that show you how you can use the program in conjunction with several popular homeschool science programs. As you consider signing up for the e-Science program, be sure to read their terms of service (as you would for any other subscription program). They do have a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. If you'd like to try it out before you subscribe, you can sign up for some great free stuff and try it out.

There is a TON of information on this website. It feels a little overwhelming at first, actually. However, once I took a deep breath and started really looking at what was available, I was impressed. I like that there is so much hands-on learning to engage a child. Even the "textbook reading" is very well done - it's written in a conversational tone to the student. Aurora Lipper is passionate about science, and it shows in all aspects of the program. She is also available to answer any questions you may have.

The girls and I *loved* using this program. It really is accessible for all ages. There was a lot that Isaac could do and understand along with us. They appreciated the hands-on learning and looked forward to doing science. This program is a great example of living science and worth considering for your homeschool.

 Click here to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

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