Science education for the elementary school years needs to be full of fun and excitement and feed off a child’s natural curiosity. That’s why programs like Generation Genius are a perfect fit. Designed for students in the Grade 3 to 5 range, this site combines videos with experiments along with some guided discussion and exploration. One of my sons is all about science, so any opportunity to try out something new in his area of interest is a win for him. We decided to give Generation Genius a try.
WHAT IS GENERATION GENIUS?
This website is produced in partnership with the National Science Teachers Association and includes 36 video-based science lessons featuring Dr. Jeff Vinokur – who is also known as “The Dancing Scientist.” He has 2 teenage assistants, Izzy and Zoe, and a robot named Bert who help him explore and discover during the show. The videos themselves are about the length of an average kids television show, nicely divided up into segments like Field Trip Time and DIY with Zoe. Right now the lessons are based on the typical standards for Grade 3 through 5, but they intend to expand in the next couple of years to include lessons for grades K-2 and 6-8. The cost is $95US a year and gives you access to everything on the website (other than their quizzes program). You can use it on up to 3 devices. It’s a complete science program on its own, or you can use it alongside other programs to offer more hands-on and interactive learning.
HOW TO USE GENERATION GENIUS
This site is very obviously one intended for classroom use, which doesn’t always transfer well to a small homeschooling family experience, but all-in-all, we’ve managed to find it pretty adaptable. We have been testing the program with our middle son, however, his younger 5-year-old brother wanted to watch too, and he’s been learning a lot of great things about science from them as well. There are 36 videos in this program, which makes it a perfect fit to do one topic a week.
Before watching the video, look through the lesson plan that breaks down the ideas and plans to use during this lesson.
Typically, it follows a pattern of:
- pre-assessment discussion
Step 1 of each lesson begins with a set of “before the video” discussion questions – to get an idea of what the kids already know about that topic. Each lesson has 12 of these and actually have created some really great dialogue with my kids. It’s impressive how much they actually know and when they don’t know, some of the amazing concepts that they’ve pieced together from their own life experiences and conversations.
“Engage” is the section where you have an opportunity to grab your student’s attention and get them interested and excited to learn more about your topic. This section involves teacher-led activities – like a field-trip, experiment, a suggested video and conversation, etc. Some of these are admittedly more attention-grabbing than others, but science always has its WOW moments!
Sometime within the explore or explain steps, you will watch the video and talk about what you’ve learned. These sections are focused on examining the topic of study through observation, experimentation, learning to record results, and being shown more. There are post-video discussion questions, too.
During the video, Zoe does an example of an experiment you can do related to the topic. This DIY activity is typically included in the elaborate section of the lesson plan.
To evaluate that your child has understood the topic, the evaluate section offers ideas of what to get them to write or share in a science notebook about the topic of the week.
Occasionally, there is an extension section that offers more ideas on how to keep learning.
WHAT WE LIKE ABOUT GENERATION GENIUS
We have now completed a few of the lessons within this program. All-in-all, my kids love Dr. Jeff and the gang.
- It’s funny. My kids find it hilarious and often break out in laughter. (I admit, I find it pretty cheesy at points, but….. SCIENCE!) To date, our favourite episode has been the chemical and physical changes one (which was the first one we watched), because Dr. Jeff keeps pranking his mom and my children loved that.
- The videos themselves are a great jumping point for curiosity and I appreciate that they include both experiments that you can do at home and those that can only be done in a safe, laboratory environment. I honestly was quite impressed at how clearly the phases of the moon were demonstrated with a flashlight and a styrofoam ball – it might have been the best demonstration I’ve ever seen.
- One neat feature we’ve seen in some videos are some auto-stop moments – where the videos pause – allowing students to think of answers to problems before continuing. I wish this was in all the videos because it’s a great way to keep kids interactive and paying attention.
- Science can sometimes seem as though it’s this abstract idea and kids don’t always fully understand how it applies to their own lives. I really appreciate the whole segment about Real World Science – where Izzy shows how the topic of today is visible in real life.
- There is a wide variety of science topics – chemistry, earth sciences, life sciences, physics, etc.
- It makes it easy for the teacher with a detailed lesson plan, a teacher’s guide that explains the topic in more detail to make sure you know what you are teaching, easy site navigation, a step-by-step DIY activity printout,
- It has a vocabulary list per topic, which could easily be used as a spelling list or dictionary skills practice.
AREAS GENERATION GENIUS COULD IMPROVE
All in all, this is a really full curriculum option and I’m pretty impressed by it. However, there are a few things from a parent/teacher perspective that I think could be added on to make it even better.
- I’d love to see some suggestions for quality extras such as related books, online games or other science websites with more learning, field trip possibilities, etc to add to the learning experience.
- It could be really helpful to have some printable worksheets to go along with the lesson that could be used as a notebook for the series.
These are just minor additions that I feel could make the experience even better.
GENERATION GENIUS IN OUR HOMESCHOOL
We are going to use the program this year with our 11-year-old. Although he’s just over the intended grade level for this program, we found it fun enough to use for the year – with one lesson a week. The hardest part for us is keeping everyone in check so they don’t just binge watch all the videos at once – which is something my little scientist loves to do. Although it’s not a hands-off learning experience to implement the whole program properly, it’s all laid out so completely that it’s very easy to use. We are huge fans of making learning fun and interactive and that’s exactly what Generation Genius does for science.
Find out more about their program at https://www.generationgenius.com