Mystery Science offers online science lessons that are super easy to use and have outstanding content. Lessons are designed for students in kindergarten through fifth grade with the goal of developing a positive attitude toward science in the formative years that will (hopefully) last a lifetime.
Film footage, animations, and other illustrations with voice over instruction do an excellent job of teaching the material. A variety of activities along with discussion and interaction totally engage student interest as they help them think through scientific concepts, learn practical applications, and begin to apply the scientific method.
Mystery Science advertises their product as “open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science,” and that’s exactly what they are. Using a discovery approach with questions that intrigue and attract kids, each video lesson explores a science concept often bringing in real life applications.
The majority of the lessons are best for grades two through five, but new lessons are being added for kindergarten-first grade level with a few already available. Activities are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.
Mysteries are presented as units, with lessons (or mysteries) within units building upon one another. For example the Human Machine unit has four mysteries: Why do your biceps bulge?, What do blind people see?, How can some animals see in the dark?, and How does your brain control your body? Another example is the unit on Invisible Forces with these mysteries: How could you win a tug-of-war against and elephant?, What makes bridges so strong?, How can you go faster down a slide?, and What can magnets do?
Instruction is through online videos created by the folks at Mystery Science. Videos are brief or stop frequently for an activity or discussion. Parents or teacher should be able to lead any discussion based upon what they have just watched. It doesn’t appear necessary to watch in advance. However, parents or teachers do need to gather supplies for the activities in advance by first looking at the prep page found under “Get Activity Supplies” for each exploration. This page includes links to worksheets and answer keys to print out as well as the list of any other resources you will need. Activities sometimes require nothing more than paper and pencils. However, they often will use just a few simple resources such as in one activity having to do with rocks and weathering that requires sugar cubes, washable markers, a paper plate, a food storage container, and pencils.
Explorations are designed for class groups with students working in pairs or groups. However, most activities will adapt easily for a parent working with only one or two children.
Only two units are available for K-1 thus far: Force Olympics (on forces, machines, and engineering) and Weather Watching. The Spinning Sky unit on the sun, moon and stars can be used for kindergarten through second grade. Material Magic teaches about properties and phases of matter for grades two and three. Many more units in addition to Human Machine and Invisible Forces are available for grades 2-4, 3-5, or 4-6. More units for all levels are in development.
Mystery Science might eventually have enough units to be a complete curriculum, although there are not quite enough units yet. The lesson design certainly works well enough for core curricula since it provides teaching, hands-on activity, written work, and oral discussion. For now, though, it should serve well either as an occasional supplement or as a major component of your science curriculum for the elementary grades. The fact that it is free for the first year makes it risk-free to try it out and see for yourself.