Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bridgeway Academy - Marine Biology Online!

You might be thinking, how is that possible? Marine Biology online? It is! When the Bridgeway Academy review opportunity, Fun with Science - Marine Biology, came up, I thought of my son. He enjoys the study of the ocean and I do too so I figured he would like Bridgeway's Learning Labs. When I was young, I took one of those standardized tests that told me what my strengths were and what I might consider doing for a career when I grew up. One of the things it said about me was that I should consider being a marine biologist. To this day that amuses me because really, science is most definitely not my favorite thing to study, but I have always loved the ocean.


So what is Bridgeway Academy? 

Bridgeway Academy is an online resource for homeschoolers anywhere in the world. They offer a wide range of course options for K through 12th grade classes, full curriculum options, partial enrollment, as well as what we reviewed, Learning Labs - Online Homeschool Co-ops. The Marine Biology course was one such class. This is offered for $145 and lasts for nine weeks. These are live online courses where your child will interact, not only with the teacher (who is visible via a web camera), but also with students all over the world--this is the "co-op" aspect to the class.

How does it work?

Intended for grades 5-8, all students must have a high speed internet connection, a working microphone, and a working headset to participate. A webcam is highly recommended but not required. We had a webcam and this enabled the teacher to see my son when she interacted with him. My son could always see her face. These classes are designed "to encourage critical thinking, interaction, and hands-on learning through interdisciplinary topics." I found this to be true with the exception of the "hands-on" since there was not much of that via an online interaction. Students meet together in an online classroom (Jigsaw Meeting) and class instruction and discussion is facilitated by PowerPoint presentations, PDF documents, videos, in addition to the questions and answers the teacher utilizes throughout the course.

This is what my son's screen looked like:

The upper left is, of course, the teacher. In this case it was a lovely, educated, and interesting woman named Carla Berg. She really knew her subject and her interest in it was infectious. She has been a math and science teacher for eleven years and definitely knows and loves her subjects! There is also a map where the other students are located, a white board and an area for discussion as well as a chat area (with limited access so the kids don't get distracted!) The videos and PowerPoint presentations are enlarged when the teacher is utilizing them as she teaches through the subject. 

What is covered in Fun with Science - Marine Biology?

Our course covered these subjects in the hour and fifteen minute classes:

What is Marine Biology?
Osteichthyes (fish with bony skeletons)
Chondrichthyes (jawed cartilaginous fish - like sharks and rays)
Marine Mammals
Sea Turtles
Coral Reefs and the Arctic 
Polar Seas

To give you an idea of the thoroughness of these courses, this is an example of the 40-page PowerPoint presentation on Osteichthyes:

*Why do fish move?
*What slows fish down?
*Types of fins (detailed information on each kind)
*Anatomy of fish
*How a fish swims
*Cruising Speed
*Different kinds of fish (photos and graphics)
*Muscles of Fish

*Fish Senses (sight, hearing, etc.)
*Lateral Line (defined, explained, demonstrated)
*Swim Bladders
*Gills and Respiration

She carefully goes over each of these things and engages the children, asks good questions, and draws them into the conversation. It is a very Socratic way of teaching that I appreciated a great deal! 

After each class, she would assign homework that coincided with the subject of the week. One week my son had to write a paper on an endangered species. Another assignment was to showcase the "food web" in the sea. He was responsible for the assignment and for making sure the teacher received it on time. Jigsaw Meeting enabled us to go back and redo the PowerPoint presentations, obtain any PDFs or assignments we missed, and even re-watch the whole class if we happened to miss it. This is an example of what you will see inside and what you have access to after the class is over:

We did not need to provide anything for this class as it was all provided by the school via PDFs throughout the course. I really appreciated this! 

What did we think?

Every Monday at 10:15 am, my son would jump onto the computer, put his headphones on, and get going. I loved that he was learning through another teacher and that I didn't have to do any footwork for the class except to ask him, "Did you do your assignment?" He is a fairly self-motivated child (most of the time) and this class was interesting to him. I have never met a child that isn't fascinated with the sea or its creatures and what goes on under the waves. He is no different. I also really liked the manner in which the teacher engaged the students. She definitely drew them out and her love for the subject was appreciated here. At $145 per course ($16 per class), this might not be something that every family can do, but I do highly recommend the courses found at Bridgeway Academy. I know for certain we would never have spent this much time on marine biology, in this much depth, so I was thrilled that he was able to do so. What doors might this kind of learning open up for your child?

The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed two other Learning Labs from Bridgeway Academy in addition to a physical remedial English course called Bridgeway English (Book 1 and Book 2). I definitely recommend you check these reviews out on the Crew site! This is one company I will recommend for a long time to come!

1 comment:

Bugs said...

I *loved* our class too! I already started scoping out the next offerings, and if they had ones earlier in the day (gosh, the time difference stinks sometimes!) we would be all over it! I'm putting Bridgeway on the list of things to look forward to for when we get back to the states :)