Supercharged Science has been a popular homeschool resource for many years, but this online program has expanded to the point where it now offers grade-level courses for kindergarten through twelfth grade as well as coverage of individual science topics as e-Science units. (They also offer live, online classes, but those are beyond the scope of my review.) I’ve written up separate reviews for the Ultimate Science Curriculum Series that covers individual topics and the Science Mastery programs that provide access to online lessons plus most of the experiment resources needed for complete-year (or longer) programs.
This review focuses on Supercharged Science’s online science curriculum available under either grade-level programs or e-Science units. It is important to point out that many of the same videos are used across the programs to allow families to select the format that suits their needs.
Enrollment is by family, so multiple children can benefit from one subscription, with a choice to subscribe monthly or annually. When you enroll, you select either grades K-8 or 9-12. If you have children in both grade ranges, select 9-12 since it includes access to resources for K-8.
The program is presented by Aurora Lipper, a mechanical engineer, university professor, pilot, and mom who is dedicated to making science intriguing and fun for children. In Supercharged Science, the emphasis is on learning by doing, so Lipper teaches primarily via videos that teach and guide students through hands-on learning. Lipper’s demonstrations are so easy to follow that older students should be able to work independently most of the time. However, parents will need to pay attention to safety issues and oversee experiments to ensure students use proper procedures and reasonable caution. Students will need many resources for experiments, but these will often be household or easy-to-find items. Some advanced courses require more specialized equipment. (The Science Mastery Diamond Level has most of the resources required for all of these lessons, so if you want resources provided for you, consider enrolling in the Diamond Level rather than e-Science units or grade-level courses.)
The video presentations and experiments are the core of the program. They do a great job of guiding students through hands-on activities that connect scientific concepts with practical applications in the real world. Beginning with a video presentation, then performing an experiment is likely to create excitement and curiosity about science that is difficult to achieve just by working with textbook material. Science experiments are buttressed with easily digestible information (provided via PDFs) to convey the key points students should be learning. Quizzes help parents check whether students grasp key ideas. Some of the lessons use math to help students understand science, and Aurora has developed Supercharged Math curriculum for students in grades four through eight that reflects Supercharged Science's approach of using real-world applications for learning.
In addition to the program material, Lipper teaches a live tele-class online every few weeks where students subscribed to e-Science can connect with her personally. While this component is offered live at particular times, it is also recorded. Aside from the live tele-class, everything else can be accessed whenever it is convenient.
Lipper also includes videos that introduce students to the program, teach the scientific method, and provide an overview of Lipper’s approach. Her goal is to help students learn to think and operate like real scientists.
Supercharged Science takes a secular approach but should not have any content in conflict with religious beliefs. They describe themselves as “creation neutral."
Grade Level Courses
Grade-level courses organize many lessons under three or four categories, somewhat like a textbook does. So, for example, the categories for second grade are chemistry, earth science, and life science. But otherwise, there’s little resemblance to a textbook-style course. Students watch demonstrations, perform experiments, and learn primarily from their experiences.
Some lessons repeat in more than one grade level. For example, both second and fourth grades have categories of lessons on rocks and minerals and use some of the same videos. The categories vary each year as does the number of lessons listed for each grade level. The second-grade course has 19 lessons for chemistry, 15 for earth science, and 11 for life science—a total of 45 lessons. Fifth grade has many more lessons: 21 for chemistry 37 for life science, 18 for earth science, and 15 for astronomy—91 in all.
Lipper does not create videos for targeted age groups. While she says that many of her videos are for all ages, I think most of them are best for students in at least third or fourth grade. That accounts for the lower numbers of lessons shown under the lower grade levels.
Each of the three or four categories for a grade level has a downloadable “Learning Evaluation.” This document has educational goals plus a three-part evaluation. The first part of the evaluation is a demonstration. The second is an assignment with options to fit different learning styles: a writing project, a demonstration, creating a poster, etc. The third is a quiz, although quizzes are not included until third grade. The answer key is included in the file.
High School Courses
Complete high school science courses are a relatively new feature. Complete courses are available for physics, chemistry, and biology, and supplemental courses are offered in astrophysics, energy, and electronics. High school courses are oriented toward college prep requirements. Since Lipper believes that physics and chemistry are foundational for understanding other science disciplines, she recommends that students study physics, chemistry, earth science, and biology in that order. She explains her rationale in this free video.
The Supercharged Science high school courses rely less on memorization of vocabulary and more on grasping key concepts and understanding the interplay of different science disciplines. The courses are much more structured than courses for the younger grades, and they include more information and worksheets.
The Physics, Chemistry, and Biology courses have students build a notebook from the downloadable worksheets and exercise sets (printed from the website). Physics and Chemistry are math-based courses, but Lipper walks students through the math.
The syllabus for Physics is online, and it presents the course in 14 chapters with one to six sections per chapter. The syllabus links directly to sections within the chapters: Each section has several lessons. Some are brief lessons, such as those demonstrating how to do the required math. Some sections have downloadable worksheets, exercises, and an answer key. The course has over 500 videos--about half instructional and half experiments. Students do not need to do all the labs; they might skip those that require equipment that is too expensive, although they should still watch Lipper’s videos. Lipper recommends but does not require that students have a Physics textbook. She recommends College Physics: A Strategic Approach by Knight and Jones or AP Physics (online, free) by OpenStax.
Like Physics, the Chemistry course has an online syllabus that links to course content. The course has 13 chapters with lessons linked directly under each chapter (rather than under section headings). Students should have a high school or introductory-level college chemistry textbook for reference and additional explanations.
Some lessons include downloadable worksheets, exercises, and answer keys. Many of these are like pages from lab manuals with instructions for experiments, data sheets, and observational questions. Sometimes they include additional instructional information. And sometimes they pose questions that help students generalize knowledge from an experiment to develop conceptual understanding. Homework Problem Sets with answer keys are included for all except the final chapter.
Chemistry requires a lengthy list of resources and equipment. You can purchase the Thames and Kosmos Chem C3000 V2.0 kit, and you will also need some household and easy-to-get items.
For biology, high school students should be taking Unit 26: Year of Biology. The downloadable Curriculum Guide Packet for this self-paced course serves as the course syllabus with links to videos, experiments, and packets for some labs and activities. The course follows an unusual progression, covering microscopes, botany, cells, microorganisms, marine biology, animals, dissections, human anatomy, and a final project, in that order. Most biology courses are arranged starting with the smallest living organisms and moving up to the largest. Also, other biology courses vary in the amount of attention given to different topics. So, the selection of topics in this course shouldn’t be an issue, and students can use some topics in a different order if they wish.
Students will study biology through experiments and observations, learning what real biologists do. They will also learn how biology ties in with physics and chemistry. No textbook is required, but Lipper says students can get a high school or college-level biology textbook to use as a reference when they want to know more.
Lipper includes suggested books for many topics, and in the Curriculum Guide Packet, she recommends that students read a book about one of 15 listed scientists.
Lessons center around the lab activities, and their order can be rearranged to suit the seasons or the student’s schedule. Students can skip some labs (e.g., dissections) if they want to. They will need many resources for the course, including a microscope or tool for magnification. Separate classes on microscopy cover the use of a microscope and other types of magnifiers, as well as how to choose a microscope. Some live sessions are offered on microbiology and microscopy as an extra bonus. Some years, there might be additional live interactions such as the 2023 interaction with the E/V Nautilus, “part of a joint exertion with the National Geographic Society as part of the From Shore to Abyss program.” Students will also take either a real or virtual tour of a natural history museum.
I don’t see downloadable worksheets and exercises for many lessons like those for Physics and Chemistry. However, there are worksheets and questions in the Botany Lab Packet for several experiments, individual lab worksheets such as those provided for the onion mitosis, and extensive reading material and exercises for each of six lessons on human anatomy. Sometimes questions are posed directly on the lesson pages following a video, and students should be answering these as part of their observations and notetaking.
Another form of accountability is through vocabulary words. Students are given a list of 75 vocabulary words to master (in the downloadable course packet) along with pages where they can either write definitions or draw pictures for each word. A two-page glossary for these words can be used for reference.
The Biology course is uneven in its level of difficulty, and many activities are optional. So, I recommend parents require college-bound students to maintain complete lab and observation reports and have them do additional reading from the suggested resources or from a textbook during months when they are doing mostly lab work and little reading.
Three other topics are covered with briefer courses. Astrophysics is a short course that should take six to twenty hours depending on how many activities students complete. Electronics and Energy are also short courses that might take anywhere from five to 50 hours to complete. Both are advanced courses that require some previous knowledge of the topic. The Energy course requires some expensive resources.
The e-Science units each address one topic with multiple lessons, using the same lesson material as is used for grade-level courses. The 27 units begin with physics and chemistry and continue through other disciplines, with biology toward the end. Lipper’s rationale is that some knowledge of physics and chemistry is fundamental for understanding all of the other science disciplines. If you want to align with Lipper’s approach, you should choose the units option rather than grade-level courses. You might still address more than one area of science within a year, but you will be following a logical progression.
Under each unit, you will find tabs for a Unit Overview and a Material List. The Unit Overview includes objectives, materials required, vocabulary, instructional information (like a textbook), an overview of the experiments and troubleshooting tips, one or more quizzes, and an answer key. Sometimes, there will also be a downloadable student workbook.
For parents who might not have a science background themselves, or perhaps don’t have the time to teach it, these programs are a welcome solution.
It's important to note that Supercharged Science has a 30-day money-back guarantee on all their courses.