For the past few weeks, my kindergartner and I have been using Rainforest Journey, a beautiful online science program from EdTechLens. We’d like to share our review of it with you.
About EdTechLens: Rainforest Journey
We received a one-year online subscription for one student for a single grade level of content. At this time, Rainforest Journey has content available for K-5th grade. It is a web-based program that seems to be accessible from any device that can use a browser. We successfully used it from my Mac, my iPhone, and our Kindle Fire tablets.
We chose to try the kindergarten level for my 5-year old who is newly reading as we have a science curriculum that we love in place for the older girls but haven’t found anything we love yet for kindergarten. I was sent a username with which I was able to sign on and set up a password for myself and my daughter. I had to set up a student account for which I was given a generated username that I found a little hard to remember but she loved it and had no problem remembering it, plus the computer remembered it as well. After setting up the student account, I had to add her to my “kindergarten class” and decide whether she needed to go through the content in the order specified by EdTechLens or if she could choose which lessons she wanted to do. I chose to have her go in order.
From the teacher dashboard (pictured above), I am able to go through all the lessons and do any printing necessary before doing the lesson with my daughter. Most of the lessons end with a one- or two-page worksheet reviewing the content that was just covered, and each unit ends with several different types of assessments including a short multiple-choice section and an open-ended section. Here’s a screenshot of one of the lesson review worksheets. You can see that they include lovely full-color pictures! My daughter loved the pictures, but they can get a little spendy ink-wise if you print all of them.
The lessons look exactly the same in the teacher account as they do in the student account, so I had to be careful to remember to log out of the teacher account and sign into the student one before having her do her work or the program didn’t register her work as done and she wasn’t allowed to move on to the next level because of my choice to have her work in order.
How We Used This Online Science Program
We used Rainforest Journey from EdTechLens each day as part of Littlenificent’s kindergarten day. While the baby was napping, she and I either sat at my computer and did it together or I (more often) connected my computer to the TV and she read it from there while I controlled it from my computer. The pictures included in the program are gorgeous so we, more often than not, drew a bit of a crowd!
In both places but especially on the larger TV screen, we found that the pictures were big and beautiful and the text was a little small. She would lean back and enjoy the pictures and then lean forward squinting to read the words. (I actually took her to the eye doctor during this period thinking maybe she needed glasses, but she is fine. The print in this program is just a little small.)
When I thought to try it on my phone, it adjusted the print nicely and it was easier to read, but of course, the pictures also adjusted and were smaller.
She loved that she always had the option of having the text read to her with just a click. Most days, she opted to sound it out and try to read it herself and then have me click for the audio to listen to it being read. I thought this made for nice reinforcement as she was hearing it twice, plus it was good reading practice.
The text in the kindergarten level is very short so as to be readable by kindergartners. This made for a great “reader,” but in my opinion, meant that it was pretty short on actual content. Littlenificent would finish reading and be so proud of herself for reading it but then would find it hadn’t really answered any of her questions and so I had to do a lot of explaining off the top of my head about photosynthesis and the water cycle and other topics. I would have preferred to have more meaty content to read to her in the lesson or at least in a teacher’s guide and then let her practice reading on the lesson review pages which I thought were very age-appropriate.
When I spoke to EdTechLens about this, they did allow us access to a few of the other grade levels to see if any of them would be more appropriate for our needs. I was able to see that the reading level increases for each grade, as one would expect in a program like this. We ended up continuing with Littlenificent in the first grade level as it seemed to be a better fit for her, but we still found that we craved a higher-level, more meaty reading text. Though this isn’t an option with this program, what probably would have worked the best for us would have been to read the 3rd or 4th grade lessons and then do the kindergarten or first grade lesson review pages.
After each lesson, we looked at the review worksheets which are printable pdf files. Most days, we printed them out and she wrote out her answers and drew and colored the pictures. There were a few days that we just opted to talk through the questions and activities. She is very proud of the little notebook she has assembled to commemorate her journey through the rainforest.
Some of the lessons include short, usually soundless videos while others include links to interviews with real scientists. There were also some links to some journal entries about a real trip to a rainforest with a 5-year old girl named Mariana. These were, by far, our favorite part of the curriculum! Every time there was a journal entry, Littlenificent would call the big sisters over and everyone would come running to see what Mariana was up in that entry.
Everyone got a little frustrated when they realized that the journal entries were not given in order; they are inserted to go with the topic of the lesson. So one day, we might read entry 6 for day 2 and then a couple lessons later, we would read entry 3 from day 1, then a few days later, entry 5 from day 3, etc.
I know that all my girls learn best from stories rather than topical lessons so after several weeks of hearing this frustration, I finally just went into the teacher’s dashboard and we all spent the last week reading through the journal entries in order. We did this from the 3rd grade level because the kindergarten and first-grade ones didn’t include enough information for my girls. I could see lightbulbs going on for Littlenificent as she heard terms we had tried to learn in the previous weeks and the journal entries finally tied it to something she cared about. This totally reinforced what I already knew about my girls – they learn through stories and from hearing higher-level texts than they can read themselves!
Final Thoughts about Rainforest Journey Online Science Program
This is a high-quality online science program that would be excellent for school classrooms and for homeschoolers looking for a more traditional school-like curriculum as well as for students who are reluctant or struggling readers. I can imagine that having short bursts of grade-appropriate text along with gorgeous photographs and occasional videos and the option of having it read to you would appeal to many hard-to-reach students.
For others like us who prefer a more literature-based, multi-age approach to learning, this online science program might not be the best fit. On the other hand, it did provide a touch of variety and a chance for my little one to have a positive experience with a more textbook-like approach.
Connect with EdTechLens
You can go directly to the EdTechLens website for sample lessons of this online science program and videos as well as information on pricing. I highly recommend that, if you look into using this product, you look carefully at the sample lessons to make sure you are choosing the right grade level for your child(ren). You can also find EdTechLens on social media:
Google +: https://plus.google.com/+Edtechlens
I, along with other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, received a free copy of this product in exchange for our honest reviews. You can see what my fellow Review Crew Members thought of it by checking out the Crew Blog Post for this product. I always love checking out everyone’s reviews as they always come up with creative ways I never would have thought of to use these things!
Outstanding review! So fun to see how other crew members use the products! My sons thought the pictures and videos were incredible! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I love to see how other home ed families are using the same products we are. It’s always interesting to see how techniques and opinions vary by the family.
Have a great weekend!