Mystery Science offers online science lessons that are super easy to use and have outstanding content. Instruction is through online videos created by the folks at Mystery Science and parent-directed discussion and activities. Mystery Science advertises their product as “open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science,” and that’s exactly what they are (aside from gathering materials for activities). Using a discovery approach with questions that intrigue and attract kids, each video lesson explores a science concept often bringing in real-life applications.
Lessons on specific topics 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 (we hope) last a lifetime. Just a few of the topics are Force Olympics (on forces, machines, and engineering), Weather Watching, Animal Adventure, Work of Water, Stormy Skies, Power of Flowers, Web of Life, Watery Planet, and Energizing Everything.
Each topic is presented as a unit, with three to eight lessons (called mysteries) within each unit that build 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 an elephant?, What makes bridges so strong?, How can you go faster down a slide?, and What can magnets do?
Brief videos use film footage, animations, and other illustrations with voice-over instruction to do an excellent job of teaching the material. The videos stop frequently for an activity or discussion. Parents lead students through a discussion and a variety of activities that engage student interest. Parents or teachers 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. They often will use just a few simple resources such as sugar cubes, washable markers, a paper plate, a food storage container, and pencils for an activity having to do with rocks and weathering. The discussion and activities help students think through scientific concepts, learn practical applications, and begin to apply the scientific method.
The activities 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.
Each lesson and activity should take about one hour. Using extension activities takes longer. Mystery Science has a very detailed Planning Guide on their website that shows a sequence of lessons for each grade level for kindergarten through fifth grade and their correlation to the Next Generation Science Standards. Mystery Science might provide sufficient science lessons for kindergarten through second grade. By third grade, you probably want to devote more than one hour a week to science. So, while Mystery Science definitely works well as a supplement for all of these grade levels, it can only be your complete curriculum up through second grade.
In addition to the complete lessons, Mystery Science has mini-lessons on individual topics. All of these have a video and many of them have a hands-on activity.
Mystery Science does a great job of building complete lessons around their science videos since it provides lesson plans, hands-on activity, written work, and oral discussion. Children are likely to love the multi-sensory approach, and it's relatively easy for parents to teach.
Homeschoolers can try out the first two mysteries in each unit for free at least until June 30, 2022.