NECTAR Foundation's Science Trek 4, 5, 6
NECTAR Foundation's Science Trek 4, 5, 6 covers most of the science curriculum found in grades 4-6. After using the program with my students, it is obvious that teachers were involved in the creation of this program because it fits well with what we teach in the classroom. The program allows students to enter a theme park where pavilions represent the different science curriculum strands. Within these four pavilions are various exhibits:
- Living Things - habitats and communities, the human body and the diversity of living things.
- Matter - properties and changes of materials, structures and flight.
- Earth and Space - weather, space, rocks, minerals and erosion.
- Energy - sound and light, electricity, conservation of energy, pulleys and gears, motion, forces, simple machines, and mechanisms.
Students enter exhibits in each pavilion that contain investigations, tests, interactive activities, video clips, Web resources and puzzles. Each exhibit provides the teacher with useful background information. The backgrounders contain an overview of the exhibit, learning outcomes, assessment ideas, tracking sheets, resource lists and experiments to assist the teacher. With little or no science background, a teacher can use this section to get started and prepare long- and short-term plans. The integrated tracking system allows teachers to see how well their students are doing. The teacher's manual is comprehensive and includes tips on using Science Trek in the classroom and learning outcomes, as well as in many assessment instruments and culminating performance tasks with rubrics for each exhibit.
In addition, the Science Trek Web site (www.sciencetrek.net) contains many useful resources for students and teachers. It can be accessed directly from the CD-ROM or by going to the Web site, which I found to be a great resource. The site contains lesson plans, Web quests, assessment instruments, video and print bibliographies, tests, links to many excellent science sites, along with many other resources.
Students found the program to be enjoyable and easy to work with on their own. It was enjoyable for me to have taught a lesson, then have the students bring up information or ideas they discovered in Science Trek. Some of my students found information in the software that we were studying in class. They were able to understand the subject better and incorporate their new vocabulary in context. The students also had fun working through quizzes and challenging each other.
In addition, I regularly use NECTAR Foundation's other program, Math Trek, with my students. I feel they have gained much knowledge and thinking skills from both programs. The programs have also helped me prepare my students for the sixth-grade assessment. My students and I have benefited greatly by using such a well-rounded, accurate and curriculum-based program.
St. Andrew's School
Platforms: Mac or Windows;
stand-alone or networkable
This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.