Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review: Download N Go™- Expedition Australia

I received “Expedition Australia” from the Download N Go Series to review. The Download N Go Series is by Amanda Bennett and The Old Schoolhouse. Expedition Australia is aimed at children in grades K-4th and offers one week of lessons. Titles in the Download N Go Series can be purchased from The Old Schoolhouse Store.

“Expedition Australia” is an e-book and includes website links, lapbook activities, and a book list. Using this unit study requires a computer with internet connection and a printer, a library, and a file folder or notebook for your completed lapbook.

I used “Expedition Australia” with Maggie, my 11 yr old daughter, and FRitW, my 5 yr old son. Kirk helped FRitW and MT just looked on with us.

I set our laptop up on the kitchen table, got out the bowl of markers, passed out papers I had printed the night before, and let the fun begin! I started out each day with one of the videos linked in the study. This is one of my favorite things about this study – there are links to videos, some with music and others with commentary. These videos are a great way to start the lesson.

Day One we learned about the Great Barrier Reef. I had some photos of the reef in one of the books I found at the library, but the video for the day was filmed underwater and had such beautiful sea life. All of us, big and little, enjoyed this short film and, of course, it was much easier to explain “reef” to the little guys when we could see and point out coral and other creatures. After watching the video we followed a link to a scavenger hunt game about a reef.

Each day featured a landform, an animal, and an Australian word. We also learned about weather and time differences between our home and various places in Australia, Australian history, money, constellations, and foods.

Maggie completed all of the activities. She loved using the website links provided to compare time and temperature in our area to Australian cities, and learning about animals and landforms in Australia. She enjoys lapbooks and liked recording the information and decorating her lapbook.

FRitW loved the videos of Australian animals and landforms and worked with Kirk to label his maps. He is not reading or writing on his own yet, so most of his learning came from information shared in the videos or discussions with his sister. He and MT were able to do some of the counting and cutting and pasting activities.

Things I liked about this study:

1. The information links in the study: There are videos, fact pages, and even a game.

2. The poetry pages: These are beautiful photographs and poems related to Australia.

3. Each day’s lesson is linked to the lapbook activity that matches it. This meant I did not have to search through all of the “stuff” near the end of the E-book – I just had to click a link then click again to be returned to our study. Fabulous!

4. The variety: Although kangaroos and koalas were featured, other less common animals were also discussed. The landforms (geographic features) were varied as well.

A few problems I had with this study:

1. I had a very hard time finding the books on the reading list. I spent time at two local libraries and finally found 5 of the books listed and a few others that I felt would work for our study. That said, this study could be done without the books, because there is so much information in the web links. I just like books!

2. I had to load the videos ahead of time, so we could watch them smoothly. It only took a few minutes, but when I forgot to “preload” the video it ate into our time and allowed distraction! This is strictly a technology issue on my part – my computer and internet strength were the problems, not the product!

Overall, I really liked “Expedition Australia”. I enjoyed the way the information was presented, and I liked that I was able to let Maggie do some of the research on her own (after I reviewed the websites for myself). It had some activities that even my younger boys could do and many “jumping off” points for older kids. The material was not incredibly in depth, since this is supposed to be a one week study, but I found several topics lent themselves to further exploration. The authors also include “Fun Family Ideas” in the study that would allow for lots of fun learning experiences and there are additional web links for continued learning.

The Download N Go Series covers lots of subjects: biographies – George Washington, Amelia Earhart; seasons and holidays – Valentine’s Day, Autumn Treasures; weather – Twisting Tornadoes, foods – Pizza Party, fun activities – Kite Capers and more to come! Each week long study is $7.95, and there are package opportunities that reduce the price considerably .

1 comment:

Jill said...

This sounds interesting. I will look into this!