Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review of Fascinating Education's Fascinating Chemistry

Fascinating Education
Fascinating Education has several wonderful options for high school science. Because Nicholas (14) loves Chemistry, I was very happy to have the opportunity to review Fascinating Chemistry. Now, we reviewed Fascinating Chemistry once before when Nicholas was 11, but he didn't do either the labs or the tests at that time. He *did*, however, really enjoy the material presented in this course. He was just beginning his love affair with chemistry at the time, but he couldn't really handle much sophisticated chemistry work. Now that he is on the verge of high school, and poised to do a rigorous high school chemistry class in the fall, I thought revisiting Dr. Sheldon Margulies' soothing voice and clear explanations (this time with labs and tests) would be just right for Nicholas. He was actually quite happy to see this course again! He remembered the format and the presentation of the material and hasn't objected to doing the work (a relief for me).
Fascinating Chemistry
There are 19 lessons in Fascinating Chemistry. Each lesson takes about 45 minutes to complete, and the pace at which you go is completely up to you. A lesson a week is very doable, but that pace can definitely be increased for students for whom it is on the slow side. Lessons include a slide presentation (accompanied by a pdf script, which includes the slides if you so desire), a test, and, for 12 of the lessons, labs. The topics covered include the following:
  1. The Structure of the Atom
  2. The Ionic Bond
  3. The Covalent Bond
  4. The Polar Covalent Bond
  5. The Metallic Bond - Pt. 1
  6. The Metallic Bond - Pt. 2
  7. Heat 
  8. Air Pressure
  9. Properties of Water
  10. The Mole
  11. Gases
  12. Solutions
  13. Chemical Reactions
  14. Orbitals
  15. Molecular Geometry
  16. Electrochemistry
  17. Polymers
  18. The Nucleus
  19. Final Problems

When you open Fascinating Chemistry, this is what your lessons look like. 

When you select a lesson, this is what it looks like.  

The menu of topics within each lesson is along the side, and the topic progress plays along the bottom (the white progress bar next to the pause button). I am calling them slides, but they are dynamic, not static. They are in motion - very important for watching these atoms and molecules come to life!

Finally, the labs menu looks like this: 

The labs themselves are very concisely written up as PDF documents. The labs don't require anything very fancy. The first one that Nicholas did didn't require anything more elaborate than distilled water.

The tests are composed of multiple choice questions drawn directly from the lesson material. Apparently the tests have undergone revision from past iterations, based in part on feedback from past Crew reviews. Yay! Unfortunately, as I indicated, I didn't have Nicholas do the tests the last time he did this course, so I can't comment on the previous tests. What I can say about the tests this time around is that each question is clear and easy to understand, and each question has a hint that you can click right from the question screen itself. At first Nicholas was indignant - "They tell you the answer right there!" but then he was intrigued. He didn't want to *cheat*, but he absolutely wanted to make sure he was getting the right answer. I could tell by his second test score that he definitely wasn't cheating. He got a 70. I told him he had to do it again. It turned out that he knew the answers. I sat with him as he went through the test explanations. He would say over and over, "I *knew* that, but I thought they were talking about the actual size, not the atomic radius." That's life with a 100% literal kid. He can make those explanations/arguments to me, but what's going to happen to him in college? I'll be honest. It worries me. It also makes me grateful for opportunities like this one for no-stakes tests that I can watch him work through and try to explain to him.

Nicholas really does enjoy Fascinating Chemistry. He loves Chemistry in general, and reviewing this material has been good for him. He commented to me, "I've learned this stuff a hundred times!" Yes, dear, but you're still getting the test questions wrong...and his tone wasn't a complaining one. He was just making an observation. Dr. Margulies doesn't ever talk down to students. Ever. He just explains. He teaches. You know how there are some kids who know right away when they are being condescended to and won't stand for it? That's Nicholas. To the contrary, though, he enjoys being taught by Dr. Margulies.
The one thing that I wish were different about this course is having the ability to track Nicholas's progress. Now, when you leave off watching the slides/videos, and then come back, the course does ask if you want to pick up where you left off. If you take a test, though, there is no record of it. So, Nicholas told me that he took the test for lesson one, but there is no record of it. I watched him take the tests for lessons two and three, but when I went back and looked, it just began at the beginning of the test as if everything were fresh and new. I found that a bit frustrating. It's hardly a deal-breaker, but the recording of a score, at the very least, would be helpful.

The Crew was blessed to review this and other courses by Fascinating Education, so if this kind of learning experience sounds like something your children would enjoy, definitely click the banner below to read more reviews.

Biology, Chemistry & Physics {Fascinating Education Reviews}
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