As part of the Schoolhouse Crew Review team, I’ve been given the opportunity to share my thoughts upon Visual Learning Systems Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) curriculum (Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) is also available). I’d been on the look out for science curriculum to use during the 2015-2016 school year that I could make work for both my children. I was having a hard time deciding, weighing many pros and cons. I’ll admit that this review opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. This particular edition includes primary as well as elementary science which works perfectly for my 4 and 6 year old.
Specific Studies – The science curriculum is categorized into specific subjects. Subjects covered are physical, earth, life, integrated, health, and biology. The subjects vary from each grade level. For example, you won’t find biology units for primary but you will for the high-school grade level. Each of the of subjects have a number of units one can chose from for study. The units have excellent student activities to back up what was seen in the videos. There always appears to be a What Do You Know Now?, What Have You Learned?, Video Review & Quiz, and other printable worksheet activities varying from hands-on experiments, word searches, vocabulary exercises, and more to make for a very a well rounded lesson.
Navigation – I had no trouble signing in and found the site loads very quickly. I was able to navigate the nicely designed interface easily and figure out how everything worked in a matter of minutes. There is a helpful search bar on the site where one can search for any keyword. The search in turn will wield results likely to bring up specific units, images, and like video clips if available. Site access is available 24/7 for students, teachers, and parents. The ease of use certainly makes it an enjoyable experience to use.
System Requirements – This online program can be used on Digital whiteboards, LCD projectors, iPads, handheld devices, and all computers.There are no servers or software needed. I was able to load the site using my home desktop running windows 7, my children’s laptops that are running windows 8, and my Google Android Tablet with zero complications.
Cost– There are a variety of pricing options and discounts whether is be for a large student population, multi-campus, or a homeschool family. The Digital science online Homeschool option is annual with a very cost-effective yearly subscription fee of just $99.00. The two options available are the elementary edition ( grades K-5th) & secondary edition ( grades 6-12). The cost is worth every penny, in my opinion.
-How We Used the Curriculum-
For this review, I’ve been using the The Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition which also includes Primary with my 4 and 6 year old. What has worked for my family is to focus solely on one science unit study a week. We’ve watched the unit videos on one day and completed the provided worksheets and activities throughout the rest of our school week. If I felt, that either of my children needed a refresher or forgot something that was taught, I’d have them sit and watch the video again. The play time of each of the unit videos in the primary and elementary levels are roughly about 10 minutes long though each can vary.
In keeping focused on the changes of weather and Spring planting for our garden where we live, we’ve been going through the Life subject category. The unit studies we’ve done together during the last month include Plant Life Cycles, Plants with Flowers, and Cycles in Living Things, to name just a few of our favorites.
The Plants with Flowers unit has a worksheet that directs a student to observe a flower by drawing it and answering questions about its appearance and job. The questions in this activity got my daughter thinking scientifically as she was asked to record all her observations. There is an illustrated flower diagram worksheet in this unit in which she had to properly label and describe the job of each part such as petal, stamen, pistil, and so forth. Another activity that was a lot of fun for my daughter was the word find. The word find included vocabulary words that she would later use to make a sentence. This was my daughter’s favorite unit study out of all that we’ve done so far.
Although not suggested and not entirely needed, I’ve been taking what’s been learned even further. For example, after learning about plant life cycles we planted a tray of seeds and have been noting the progress in growth each day. For the Cycles in Living Things study, we’ve been studying everything about chickens as we just adopted a trio this month! The freedom to use just what’s provided or to add other activities is purely up to the teacher.
I like using this curriculum and am happy that my children seem to enjoy it too. It has allowed me more freedom in planning experiments and activities to tie into the units. I like that I don’t have to go looking for additional videos or activity sheets that previously consumed a lot of time.
Would I recommend this? Yes! A big plus for me is that the current digital subscription level can be used for both of my children with just one annual fee. I think Digital Science Online by Visual Learning Systems is prefect for every grade level.
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