As part of TOS Review Crew, my family and I have been exposed to some of the most wonderful curricula this semester. Bridgeway Academy, which provides a wide variety of online classes, asked the Crew to review some of their online classes this fall. including the amazing Fun with Science: Marine Biology, which we were selected to review. Can I just tell you, right off the bat, that the beach and the ocean are some of our MOST favorite places to go? Unfortunately, we live VERY far from either. So we were more than delighted to participate in this one! And I must also tell you that this course has been a delightful, enjoyable learning experience for us. We’re going to be very sorry to see it come to an end.
Bridgeway Academy has a full slate of online homeschool offerings for grades pre-K through 12 that includes core subjects (like math, science, history and English) and electives (speech, personal fitness, art appreciation). Our Fun with Science: Marine Biology class is one of Bridgeway Academy’s “Learning Labs,” which they classify as a sort of online homeschool coop or an enrichment course. Because the classes are online, they set up an online classroom, run by the teacher, to which students from around the US or even the world, log in each week during class time. Teachers teach the students via webcam and microphone, using whiteboard, Powerpoint, videos, and the chat box. Students interact during class with the teacher (and each other, to a limited degree), then have an assignment and/or reading to do during the week, to research and learn more about the assigned topic.
Fun with Science: Marine Biology, an 8-week class, was taught by Mrs. Carla Berg, a capable, knowledgeable and interesting teacher. She’s taught math and science for the past 12 years; 3 years in the classroom and 9 years online. She is the perfect person to teach this class, as she is trained as a marine biologist and a science teacher. We could see her love for this fascinating topic in each class as she presented material about the oceans and ocean life of many types. Her classes have covered the following topics in a compelling and thought-provoking manner:
- Ocean zones and the animals that live in them
- Bony fishes, or osteichthyes (and yes, we can now pronounce that: “os–tee–ICK–thee–eez”)
- Marine invertebrates (like shrimp, jellyfish, snails, sand dollars, worms, and coral)
- Marine mammals (seals, sea lions, whales)
- Sea turtles
- Ocean ecosystems
Mrs. Berg teaches for about an hour and fifteen minutes each week. She presents information, asks for input from the children on the topics taught, shows videos and Powerpoint slides to teach about each part of marine life that the class is studying. Children are asked to interact with and participate via Q&As, the whiteboard and the chat box. Then, she gives an interesting assignment or a project for the children to do before the next week. Jackson has completed the following activities, which have stretched and intrigued him:
- Create and design an organism that would live in the deepest zone of the ocean
- Write a newspaper article about an endangered mammal
- Use a taxonomic key to determine which phyla a marine invertebrate belongs to
- Create a pamphlet on a bony fish
- and others!
It has been the most amazing class. This has been our first experience for Jackson with an online class, and I have to say my expectations were exceeded. Mrs. Berg handles the class well; she is an excellent teacher who presents material clearly and in ways that engage and interest the students. Even subject areas that might not have sounded as interesting to us prior to class were fascinating. Both my son (the actual student) and I have been challenged and exposed to a part of biology that is intriguing…..and we have learned so much! This will make our next trip to the ocean even more amazing…because now we’re going to know a lot more about what we’re looking at and interacting with!
Here’s what Jackson says about his experiences in Mrs. Berg’s Marine Biology: “I REALLY like the class. It has a great teacher, and she gives very interesting, sometimes EXTREMELY FUN home work assignments. It’ll be sad to have the class come to an end. I wish it could have lasted longer! Two months was too short, in my opinion. Maybe 16 weeks would be good, instead of 8. But, I still enjoyed that it had any weeks at all.”
I recommend Bridgeway Academy’s Fun with Science: Marine Biology for anyone who’s looking for ways to add great science to homeschool learning. The Learning Lab online classes normally run 9 weeks, although for purposes of this review, ours ran 8 weeks. The cost of Fun with Science: Marine Biology, which is designed for those in grades 5-8, is $145. In my opinion, it is WELL worth it! The class is truly fantastic, and unlike any other Jackson has taken. As you can see by his remarks above, our only regret is that it’s not longer than 8 weeks! We could easily be captivated by this class for an entire semester!
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