Thursday, October 13, 2016
Science4Us Elementary Science Curriculum Review
During the past 30 days, I tried out www.Science4Us.com, an interactive, standards based elementary science curriculum. This award winning program provides an online interface that allows teachers and students to interact with science lessons anytime and anywhere. In addition to a program for elementary schools, they offer homeschool options as well.
I'm always a little skeptical of digital curriculum, particularly because I believe it limits learning in a hands-on way. However, after reviewing Science4Us, I am assured that in the right context and with proper scaffolding, this program could be a useful tool for schools and homeschool programs.
The greatest benefits to Science4Us are that it provides a ton of teacher support materials, and allows educators to keep track of student work very easily. Students can access their account online and complete activities in and out of school. Science literacy is very thoroughly integrated throughout each lesson and is a major focus of the program.
I was impressed with the informational videos, professional development summaries and in-depth lesson plans that allow teachers to provide standards-linked lessons, whether they are rookie or veteran science teachers.
There are off-line lesson plans that pair with the short, digital lessons and activities that students participate in. When a student completes their work and saves it, the teacher can review and keep track of it online. I like that it provides a way for students to learn from any internet linked location and gives teachers access to all student work in one place, no papers to lose!
The online lessons and activities are appealing to kids, with animated characters that often incorporate humor into the activities. A feature I particularly enjoyed was the "Silly Bulls" activities, that work to reinforce science literacy by having students put the syllables of vocabulary words into the correct order.
Incorporating literacy is so important in the early elementary years so that students have a broad understanding and ability to communicate science when they are older.
The major drawback of this program for me is that using digital interactives limits hands-on work for kids. Exploring in a hands-on way, not only helps to build science skills, but also motor skills. Although there are lesson plans for offline content available, I would be concerned that in schools where there might be limited time for science that students are only completing the brief digital activities rather than a full, hands-on lesson.
Digital activities cannot provide the same experience as a hands-on activity. For example: in a lesson on mixtures, there is an interactive where students drag and drop recyclables into the proper bins. This could easily be done in a more tangible way with real recyclables in a classroom. Students would then have the opportunity to touch and feel different materials. Following up with the digital content would then be a great way to review.
Another concern I have with the digital activities is that they might prove difficult for students who do not have strong skills with a computer mouse. There are many opportunities to draw, drag and drop items and create things. In my experience with working with younger elementary students, difficulties with how they interact with technology can be debilitating and prevent real learning from occurring. If I were using this program to teach, I might opt to forgo having students draw and create digitally and have them complete these tasks the good old fashion way.
In general, I thought that the Science4Us program could be a really excellent tool when used in the right context. It is one of the strongest I've seen in terms of helping to develop and integrate literacy into science lessons. It would be excellent to help develop and embellish your homeschool curriculum, or provide structure for schools that need consistent, standards based curriculum. I would be hesitant to recommend that schools use the digital content exclusively, but also use the offline materials and teacher professional development provided.
For a testimonial of how this program is being used successfully, click here.
I was offered 30 days of access to www.Science4Us.com so that I could write this honest review. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions here are my own. If you have your own blog and would like to review Science4Us, check out their review program here.