Surfing the Net: Science {a TOS review}

My eldest son, Connor (3rd grade) can not get enough of science.  He is always making his way straight to the non-fiction section of the library and then hits ups the documentary DVDs next.  For him, a good school day always includes an experiment of some sort.  Connor was very eager to help review Surfing the Net Science for The Critical Thinking Co.
The Critical Thinking Co. is well known for their curricula that help children become better problem solvers.  They offer a range of material from supplemental to full curriculum for students in Pre-K to grade 12.  You are able to find 8 different subjects in the material offered by Critical Thinking Co.
  • Critical Thinking
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Test Prep
  • Tests
  • Technology
What is Surfing the Net Science?

Surfing the Net Science is a 256 page workbook, written by Jennifer Katherine Brooks, for students in grades 3 to 6 in which the kids learn about science, while learning how to research, using the Internet.

The book starts out with an Introduction.  This is one area I was glad for and I believe it is so important not to skip this part.  The Intro provides a "How to" where a few key links are provided for bookmarking, so that the activities are made easier for the students, rather than having to type in the long links each time.  In addition, the Intro provides an overview of the book's layout and a key to the icons that are used throughout the book.  Finally, this section also provides you with a link to a much advised video lesson on search engines and how key word searches work.
Following the Introduction are 7 sections of topics, with 46 sub-topics.  The book ends with answers to all questions asked.  The 7 main sections are:
  • Animals
  • Atmosphere
  • Ecosystems and Habitats
  • Energy
  • Geology
  • Plants
  • Space

Each section begins with an overview of the section's topic and provides links to get you started.  Following the overview is where the "critical thinking" questions are found, for each sub-topic.  The students use key words found in the question to research and find the answers to write down on their worksheet.

Using the links provided a student might do 1 to 8 activities within a topic.
  • Watch a video
  • Search for images
  • Use a website
  • Take a quiz
  • Play a game
  • View an animation
  • Use an interactive website
  • Read an article
How did we use this?

There is no schedule suggested for this book, and nothing that needs to "build" upon a previous subject.  While it would make complete logical sense to just go in order from page 1, we skipped around following our child-led and unit study eclectic school life.  Connor is passionate about science so we are never bored or wondering what to do next.

When we started Surfing the Net Science we had been studying eastern Canada and fisheries.  It made sense to us to begin with "Fish", which is the 4th of the 8 sub-topics offered under "Animals".  In this section the student has 3 full pages of 11 questions total, pertaining to fish.  Connor researched things such as "Largest Mammal", "Largest Fish", and "What is the world's deadliest fish?".

The last page, questions 7-11, were so fun that he repeated it numerous times.  He was asked to dissect a virtual salmon, label and draw organs and then he was asked to take a shark personality quiz.  My shark enthusiast just loved that part.

Next we went to the Hydroelectricity worksheets, found under Section 4:  Energy.  We had recently taken a field trip to Niagara Falls.  This is the only topic we didn't complete as it is hard for an 8 year old.  (The book is for grades 3-6 and Connor is grade 3). 

After coming to a road block with hydro power we switched gears to child-led learning and Connor chose all the rest of his topics, working on about a page a day, three days a week.  He learned about insects, the solar system and the ocean before I asked him to do a couple of my choice.

We next learned about Taiga and Tundra to fit our unit study on Nunavut and finally, since Connor is currently very passionate about orangutans, we learned about the Rain Forest, where he learned about products that come from the rain forest by playing on online game.

Final Thoughts
I love that the links lead the student to safe, legit, well-known science sites such as Discovery and National Geographic.  There is not a single suggestion to watch a video via YouTube, which is a huge plus to me as we have a strict "no YouTube" rule in our home.
With Surfing the Net Science I felt we weren't just skimming the surface of typical science subjects.  Students aren't just fed information, they are asked to dig in and really think about the topics.  The book really helps teach the student how to research, and what to ask oneself when researching.
The review crew has been working with a number of other items from The Critical Thinking Co., to see them click the banner below:
The Critical Thinking Company Review

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