TOS Review Crew: Supercharged Science

After spending the last three years on history, with very little science, we decided to take a break from history this year to do some studies in other areas (like science!). Read on, especially if your kids have a bent towards science, or if they are just plain curious...which most kids are! science_zps3636642f

Company Information: Supercharged Science is the creation of Aurora Lipper, a real-life rocket scientist! Her husband Al writes of her accomplishements: "She worked for NASA, has designed rockets, has 3 patents for her inventions, holds a graduate degree in mechanical engineering, did PhD work at Stanford University, has taught on the faculty of Cal Poly University (she was the youngest faculty member ever hired by the Mechanical Engineering dept.), has taught K-12 science to well over 10,000 kids, is a licensed pilot, and currently serves as president of the California Central Coast Astronomical Society.  AND, she is a stay-at-home mom to our 4 kids." Clearly, Aurora has a lot of experience both in the science field and in working with children in a variety of capacities!


Product Reviewed: We had the privilege to review Aurora's e-Science Online Learning Program. As a science major myself, one look at the study units that this program offers, and I knew it was intensive and thorough. Starting with the very basics, such as learning the scientific method, and moving through physics principles such as force, gravity and friction through lessons in light and sound, magnetism and electronics, chemistry, biology, anatomy...the list goes on! There are even topics in the program that I faintly remember studying in college, like astrophysics and thermodynamics! If your kids are participating in a science fair, Aurora has plenty of helps in that area too.

To teach all these topics, Aurora has put together a collection of videos, audio lessons, reading material, quizzes, and best of all, loads of experiments! (See this Getting Started page for a full explanation of how she covers each topic.) What I like about these experiments is that they give our kids the opportunity to play around with scientific principles and watch them in action before telling them what they should see. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...

Even if you don't have a clue about science or are shaking in your boots at the thought of having to teach it to your kids, this program is well worth its weight in gold. With the advantages of technology, we can watch and/or listen to someone who clearly loves her field of study, and share that enthusiasm with our children. Who knows? Aurora may spark a love for science in you too!

Price: E-Science is a monthly membership program---$37 per month if you want a K-8 program; $58 per month if you're looking for a K-12 program.

Age Range: K-12th grade---basically, all your kids can learn together!

Parental Preparation: After setting up my account with a user name and password, I was ready to jump in! (To tell you the truth, I couldn't wait!) My first stop was the Study Units page. My eyes pretty much glazed over with all that was offered!

To start, I would recommend that you begin with a topic of interest to your kids (or to you, if your kids can't think of one). When I asked if the units needed to be done in order, I received a prompt answer saying "no" and that I could go in whatever order I liked.

Considering that we have not done much science, I thought it best to start Matthew at the beginning with the unit on how to use the scientific method. First, I watched the video to preview. To make things easy, I also printed out the PDF of reading material, experiments, etc. and put them in a binder. Lastly, I used the experiment supply list included in the PDF to see what we could do without having to go shopping. Fortunately, we were able to do pretty much every single experiment.

As is my usual routine, I wrote out a list of things to cover in the unit (e.g. watch the video, read the introductory material, do this experiment, read some more material, do that experiment, etc.) so I knew what we were going to cover. I also collected the necessary equipment needed for the experiments and printed out the pages needed so we were ready to go for our first lesson. This took me a day or two to assemble, so give yourself some time. Give yourself a little more time if the equipment you need must be ordered or if you need to collect recyclables or run to the grocery store.

science1How We Used It: Every day, Matthew and I have about an hour or so of "elective" time in which I usually use our review products with him. Using my lesson plan list, we would spend some time each day going through the list. Some days we would watch a video and read in our allotted time. Some days would be spent entirely on an experiment. I tried to write my lesson plans so that we alternated between reading and doing.

Using the PDF on the scientific method, we would basically follow what was in the printout. Our first experiment, "Underwater Presidents" gave Matthew the opportunity to begin learning how to run through the scientific method by making a hypothesis of how many drops of water a penny could hold. (Little brother also made a guess!) He also learned how to record his data as he was testing his hypothesis. We learned how to average his results over multiple trials. We tried to see if he would get different results on the heads or tails side. It was a simple experiment, but we learned a lot about the process.

science2We then moved on to learning about variables in an experiment and how to design experiments so that they only focus on one variable. We learned this while playing around with pendulums, and in the process, learned about gravity too! The last few experiments in this unit helped us to understand the importance of observing closely and communication in the scientific process. This was a short unit, taking us about 2 weeks to finish.

After that, we repeated the process again. I wondered if there was any way we could turn my son's obsession interest in yo-yo's into a science unit. It took us awhile to figure out what units were appropriate. I e-mailed a message to Aurora asking her for her input as well as doing a little research on my own on the internet. Not only did Aurora guide me in the right direction, she also gave us a couple of experiments to try in her email!

Going through the same process, we created another outline of experiments and study using Units 2 (Motion) and 5 (Energy). We also did some preliminary reading from other sources to familiarize ourselves with terms and concepts, then selected experiments that looked interesting. The exercises provided pages for Matthew's science notebook.  We are still working through the list of assignments we created. Who knew there was so much science in a yo-yo?

What We Liked:

  • There is a lot of detail and information on the site. All I can say is "Wow!"
  • I like the way multiple learning styles are incorporated throughout the whole program. This is not just for your kinesthetic learners!
  • Kids are challenged to use what they learn to figure out why something works. I liked watching the video up to the point where it is explained and pause it there so we could discuss it, read more, and figure out what principles are in play and why it works.
  • Aurora is spunky, energetic and enthusiastic about her lessons. Nothing dull, boring or dry in her presentations.
  • You can create units that are as simple or as detailed as you like. Because of Matthew's interest in yo-yos, we are combining several units that will explore the principles involved and applying them to our study.
  • Most of the experiments use materials you may already have at home. That's great for any science program!
  • All your kids, if desired, can get involved! With the K-12 membership, you can have all your kids do the experiments, then have the high schoolers extend it with additional calculations and reading.
  • If your desired unit or experiment requires equipment you don't readily have on hand, no fear. Aurora directs you to sources where you can find what you need.
  • Reading the comments is a treasure mine! I had some questions about an experiment we had done. All you do is post your question in the comments section (after checking to make sure she hasn't already answered it for someone else!). Within a day, Aurora will personally respond to your question---and continue to do so until you have received the answer or help you need.
  • Aurora takes great care of her members. As I mentioned, I had wanted to use my son's interest in yo-yos to create a unit. As I didn't quite know where to go, I utilized the "Contact" tab. There's a link on that page to send a message to Aurora. I asked her my questions and within a day, received a personal answer. That is excellent support!

What We Didn't Like:

There was very little we didn't like. This is a well-researched, presented, and thorough program. However, this may not be a good fit for you:

  • if you are looking for more reading material. The strength of this program is in its activities and experiments. I would probably start with the experiments in this program and use a textbook to support and supplement them.
  • if you are looking for something inexpensive. Though the materials required in the experiments are not usually expensive, the monthly price tag may be an obstacle for some.

Overall Summary:

Interested? I thought you might be. As a benefit to readers, Supercharged Science has provided a special sampling of their best science experiments for you to try at home. You will need to sign up on their mailing list, but I think that is a small price to pay for a great resource. You will receive an e-book with 5 experiments and a special code that allows you to watch the accompanying videos. With the summer coming up, wouldn't this be a great way to hold your own science camp at home? Pull in some of the neighborhood kids to join in on the fun!

I can see that this program is going to be a treasure for years to come. I am looking forward to diving in to more units with the kids soon!

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