We’ve discovered an incredibly thorough–and–you guessed it, fascinating science resource in our newest TOS review! Fascinating Education offers online high school science courses (although middle schoolers can take them as well) in several science fields. We received a full year’s online access to one of them, and we selected Fascinating Chemistry.
The Fascinating Education courses (there are also physics, biology and labs, plus an introductory science short course on the website) are designed to teach science simply and clearly to students, especially to those who don’t have a strong science background. Each lesson is taught using informative and colorful slides, with the audio portion presented by Dr. Sheldon Margulies. All the information for the class is included on the Fascinating Education website, plus the student can email Dr. Margulies if necessary via a link on the website. The labs are accessible by the parent, who can print the directions and supplies needed for each one. (Parents will have to purchase the necessary supplies on their own, but the supplies list is included on each lab’s instructions page.)
The Fascinating Chemistry course is an 18-lesson course, with a final examination in the closing lesson. Each lesson has an audio-visual presentation of the information, with a printable script that the student can follow along with, and use to highlight later for further study. And, each lesson concludes with an online test which is immediately graded when the student submits his final answer. (Students may also retake the test if necessary.)
Here is a list of some of the chapter titles from Fascinating Chemistry:
- Intramolecular Bonding
- Air Pressure
- Properties of Water
- Chemical Reactions
- and more
How We Used Fascinating Chemistry:
Because Fascinating Chemistry is designed for high school students, and my son is a 12-year-old 7th grader, we worked on this course together. Depending on the information covered, we spent either a week on each lesson or two weeks. First, we watched each lesson together. Then, the next day, we’d read through the printed script from the lesson and highlight the key points in each paragraph. (There’s also a helpful chapter summary at the end of each lesson and script.) We needed to review this information several times before Jackson took the test; making flash cards for the different definitions and descriptions can really help with reviewing and learning the material. We discovered that we’ve learned an amazing amount through this course!
Jackson and I have always been fascinated with the Periodic Table of the Elements. We have a poster of it on the wall and one of our favorite casual placemats is a great reproduction of the Periodic Table. But our knowledge of its intricacies has been mostly on a surface level. Dr. Margulies has taught us, in a clear and memorable manner, much more than you see in a glance when you look at the Periodic Table. We have learned about:
- The first 20 elements in the Periodic Table and their compositions; the nucleus and its revolving electrons (Bohr’s model)
- The rings, or shells, that the electrons orbit in around each atom’s nucleus and how they fill up or bond
- Electrons and their charges
- Strong force
- the Law of Entropy
- Ionic bonds, covalent bonds and polar covalent bonds
- Atomic diameter
- What geckos and spiders have to do with London dispersion forces
- Pauling and electronegativity
- The stickiness of water molecules
And that’s just in the first four chapters!
We also found the labs enjoyable and interesting, and they’re organized so that they can clearly illustrate major points in the lessons. They are password-protected, however, so that parents only (or students 18 years and older) can access them, due to the direct adult supervision required.
The tests were probably the most challenging portion of the course. They are set up so that the student can retake them if he does not score a passing grade. However, I would have liked to see some explanations on each question in the grading portion, explaining a bit more about its correct answer. Like any good high school or college professor, Dr. Margulies explains the information, then rephrases it on the test in such a way that the student will have to use some deductive reasoning to select the correct answer. I think that most middle schoolers are in the process of developing these skills, but this made the tests on the difficult side; and sometimes when I looked at the answer I wasn’t always able to figure out why the right answer was the right one!
Fascinating Chemistry is extremely well-written and well-produced. Dr. Margulies presents the lessons clearly and in an understandable manner. The graphics are beautiful and informative. I can definitely recommend this as a main course for high school students. However, for middle schoolers (like my seventh grader), the information will probably require more study. I also wish that, in addition to the excellent script, there had been some PDFs of some of the diagrams, like the ones of the atoms’ shells or electronegativity charts. These were presented in the slide shows but it would have been great to have them in the lesson scripts as well, for additional study.
I believe that learning chemistry is a lot like learning a foreign language. To study Russian, for example, one must first learn the alphabet. Next, comes the study of the vocabulary words. Then, the student learns how to use the case system to put the words together appropriately. I found the study of chemistry to be quite similar! Mastering chemistry’s language is definitely doable. But for many students, if not all, it will require dedicated study.
However, Fascinating Chemistry is overall an excellent and well-taught course. We have definitely learned things we never knew, and enjoyed learning them! We will continue to use Fascinating Chemistry and I know this learning and enjoyment trend will continue.
You can read about other TOS Crew members’ experiences with Fascinating Education at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog, and also learn more about its other courses, Fascinating Physics and Fascinating Biology!