Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rainforest Journey by EdTechLens - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Do you have a child who loves to study about climates, or even plants and animals? Gavin, my 5th grader loves all of those things. He loves science in general, but anything to do with climates or animals is his favorite. The last few weeks we have been using Rainforest Journey, an e-learning science program, from EdTechLens.

Rainforest Journey is an online, supplemental, life science program that is geared for kids in grades Kindergarten through 5th grade, although my 14 year old was enjoying the lessons just as much as Gavin. The program includes lessons, lesson reviews, assessments, primary source materials, and hands on activities.

Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review

What we received for this review:

EdTechLens was generous enough to give us a one year on-line subscription to one grade level of content. We chose to use the 5th grade level since that's what "grade" Gavin is supposed to be in. I just want to point out that even though we are a homeschooling family, this is also available to purchase for a class room setting in a public school.

How we used this in our homeschool :

Since we are pretty eclectic with our science curriculum, we decided to just focus on the Rainforest Journey, and use it in conjunction with some Charlotte Mason style learning mixed with a little bit of a unit study approach.

When we first got access to the site, I logged into the parent/teacher dashboard so that I could look around, and decide how it would fit best into our week. You will initially need to set a few things up, such as your students, and what you would like them to have access to. You can also name your class so that it's easily found on the dashboard. This was fairly simple for me since I only have one child at this level, but this is very well organized for a public school setting with multiple classes and students. After setting up your student's info, he/she will receive a randomly chosen user name. Our user name wasn't too hard to memorize, but I do wish there was a feature that the student could choose his or her own username. My son uses the same one for almost everything, and this would make it a tad bit easier for him to remember.

After you've completed those few short steps, you are ready to go. You will come to a screen that is the Course Outline, and lists all of the Units that will be covered with the Rainforest Journey.

As you can see, the Units covered are:

  • Unit 1 - The Big Picture of the Rainforest
  • Unit 2  - Adapt or Die!
  • Unit 3 - Animals
  • Unit 4 - Plants and Fungi
  • Unit 5 - Ecosystems
Each Unit is broken down into chapters and lessons, similar to a text book. Also included are the vocabulary words for each unit and the assessments.

Since the child is able to work at their own pace, you can quickly see what has been covered.

From this screen, you can also go to Manage Class and Teacher Resources. The Teacher Resources tab has your course materials list which includes the lesson reviews, unit assessments, and hands on activities.

Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review
So now that we've talked about the parent dashboard, lets discuss the student side of things. We decided to use Rainforest Journey twice a week on the days that we do science. It would have been difficult for us to fit it in a 3rd day, and honestly my son was trying to fly through it. At his pace, we would have been easily done in a couple of weeks.

As far as what devices you can use, Rainforest Journey is easily accessible for all. We used it on our laptop, but Gavin also pulled it up easily on his Ipad. Both devices worked equally well.

The student dashboard is very similar to the parent dashboard. It is also in an outline format and will take the student through the course in sequential order if you have it set up that way. This is what I chose to do with Gavin, rather than him be able to just move all over.

Each Unit starts off with a really captivating photograph and a brief description of what the Unit will cover. I have to say, the photography in this course is absolutely amazing. This is what Gav has enjoyed the most.

Each chapter also starts off with more beautiful photography and the list of lessons that the chapter will cover.

The lessons again, begin with with more engaging photos or videos that continued on every page. There is also a brief reading part. One thing I like is that it has audio narration so that if you have a non reader, or they just want to listen, then they have that option. This can also be used with children who have special needs.

Like I said, we did this 2 days a week. The lessons are quite short so it did not take us long. Gav would listen to the reading and then we would do the Lesson Review together. For each Unit we would print out the vocabulary words and make flash cards for them. I was really proud at how fast he learned and remembered the vocabulary. After he finished the Unit then he would take a short assessment. He did very good on them and was able to learn quite a bit. I had no clue he was learning as much as he did until we got to that assessment.

After the assessment is done, then it goes to the parent dashboard to be graded. On the child's dashboard, he will be able to view all of his test results quickly and easily.

What we thought:

The photography is amazing, and Gavin did learn a lot! We will for sure complete the journey! He can sit and do this by himself which is definitely a positive.  Rainforest Journey by EdTechLens has definitely been a great supplement to our homeschool, but I am not sure yet if I would order it again due to the cost. At $50, I would want to be able to use it for longer than just the few short weeks it would take us to go through it. We are a homeschooling family on a budget, so I'm not sure it would be cost effective for us. Other than that, I think it's well put together and all in all a great program. Both of my kids loved looking at the pictures and learning all about the rainforest!

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Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review

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