Monday, October 21, 2013

Bridgeway Academy- Marine Biology- TOS Review

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Bridgeway Academy offers many homeschooling resources, including information for new to experienced homeschoolers, and a myriad of on-line classes, ranging from kindergarten through adult. We recently had the very good fortune to review Fun with Science- Marine Biology with Mrs. Carla Berg (Grades 5-8) using Jigsaw Meeting as the on-line interaction site.
Bridgeway Academy is Accredited, Flexible, Individualized, Supportive. The Academy has supported homeschooling parents for almost 2 decades and offers accreditation through the National Association of Private Schools and AdvanEd. Pretty awesome, eh?

Marine Biology is an 9-week class that meets on -line for an hour each week with approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour of homework a week. The course platform used video-camera, white board and chat technology. What this means is that the student's see and hear the teacher in real time, are able to interact with their teacher and fellow students via chat and can access slide-shows, maps and homework posted by the teacher.
The class itself dives right into ocean biology- plants, animals and habitat. Students will learn about the world's oceans and how current technology is being used to discover and utilize the oceans vast resources. The will design food webs, research endangered species, write newspaper articles about oceanography and so much more. My science/ animal loving son has reveled in the content, sharing YouTubes of Humpback Whales group feeding, recordings of underwater whale sounds and more. This has been a rich and challenging class on a subject matter that has been fascinating!
So, did my can't get enough computer time, science nerd 13 year old son love this class? Absolutely. Did I love this class? Yep! Out-sourcing has been a fundamental part of our homeschooling for years because the reality is that my time and abilities are limited. We love on-line courses in particular for several reasons:
  1. It allows us to access teachers with expertise that we don't have.
  2. We have access to classes we wouldn't even dream about (seriously, we live in the Territories-about as far from every ocean as geographically possible.)
  3. We continue to school from the comfort of  our own home (or wherever our computer might  be at the time).
  4. My kids learn what it means to turn in homework on a deadline and meet the expectations of other adults.
  5. If you miss a class-time for some reason you can go back and read the transcript or watch the video.

Cub is thoroughly enjoying the class. We are finding it to be academically solid, presented by a competent and engaging teacher. He loves having a weekly "appointment" (though perhaps he's not as enthused by the weekly homework) and loves answering questions via chat. He was beyond thrilled one week when Ms. Berg shared the kids homework (his!) with the entire class during the presentation period. Cub really enjoyed learning from Ms. Berg, was totally impressed that she was a Marine Biologist and felt that the class was informative and fun (winning combo!).

Two minor areas of concern, but certainly not show-stoppers, was the non-subject chatter that occurred with irritating regularity via the chat box. This was distracting and irritating to both my son and others. I'm not sure what the solution would be because if the teacher cut off "chat" the kids wouldn't be able to interact with the subject matter/ teacher.Secondly, this course did not come with a book,workbook or text of any kind. Cub rather wanted something like this. Homework was regular, challenging and engaging but he still felt like some type of workbook or manual would have been really helpful and enjoyable to him (he's one of my science guys so I can't really give him enough to read about for science).

That being said, would we use Bridgway again? In a heart-beat. We've used other on-line programs, loved some and loathed others, but they are all consistently spendy and utilize one curriculum choice.
Bridgeway Academy is a bit different. The classes are very reasonably priced (less than if you were paying for private tutoring, which we have) and utilize a variety of different curriculum at the high school level (love that!). Classes include such subjects as Math, Science, English, Social Studies and Electives  as well as honors and AP courses. These classes are affordable; The cost for the elementary and middle school level courses is $145. Bridgeway Learning Labs also offer 0.5 credit high school labs for $275 and up.
In conclusion: This is an incredibly affordable, flexible, individualized and do-able program. We loved the class Cub took and will definitely consider Bridgeway Academy courses in the future.
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