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Pros: Well-designed lessons help teachers deliver top-quality instruction with just minutes of prep.
Cons: Subscriptions primarily aimed at schools/districts rather than individuals.
Bottom Line: Powerful, quirky science units encourage inquiry and experimentation, inspiring students to ask and answer big questions.
The units in Mystery Science can be used as an entire science curriculum or as a supplement to what you're already teaching. The lessons will work best when students have opportunities to talk with each other about their ideas. During the explorations, pause the video to give students a chance to hypothesize before the answers pop up on the screen. For example, when a video asks what will happen if we water one plant and don't water another, have students stop and jot down their ideas before sharing their thoughts with the class. Each lesson includes hands-on learning tasks and age-appropriate assessments plus suggested videos and ebooks for extending the lesson.
Take note that Mystery Science also features shorter, five-minute videos paired with writing prompts labeled as mini-lessons. Students can influence future lessons by submitting their own questions to Mystery Science and by voting on which questions will be answered next week. Mini-lessons are great for supporting nonfiction writing or to assign to curious students for independent learning.
Mystery Science features video-based and inquiry-driven science units for elementary students. Each video lesson starts by posing a question commonly asked by students, like "Do worms really eat dirt?" or "Why are so many toys made out of plastic?" Subsequent videos and prompts guide class discussion, followed by an experiment that can be done as a class. These lessons range from five-minute mini-lessons to 45- to 60-minute full lessons. The lesson content covers a wide range of topics, including motion, biodiversity, engineering, and climate science. Many lessons have been adapted for distance learning, and it's easy to share lessons via a link or learning management system (LMS). All lessons are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, with standard crosswalks provided for states and provinces that use their own science standards.
Mystery Science isn't just a random collection of fascinating science facts. Each example is tightly connected to the guiding questions and big ideas for the unit. The narrator of the videos is upbeat and makes kids giggle, especially when he acts surprised right along with them. Lessons for younger students often include opportunities for them to get out of their seats -- to eat like a gopher, for example, or to move like a shadow. The kindergarten and first grade Read-Along Mysteries are developmentally appropriate for students still learning to read. They feature mysteries around questions that curious early elementary students ask, like "Why do you have to go to bed early in the summer?"
Sometimes the videos pause automatically at reflection points, but sometimes you have to pause them manually. There are plenty of opportunities for students to reflect, puzzling over commonly asked questions. Be prepared for students to be amazed, grossed out, and fascinated as they watch remarkable video clips, including one where a mouse is eaten by a plant. One of Mystery Science's biggest strengths is that it incorporates classroom experiments along with guided video explanations. Together, these two facets of the program do a great job addressing students' questions and curiosities about the natural world. Students engage in science authentically, building on the ideas they develop in each unit. Videos walk classes through each experiment with examples, materials lists, and downloadable worksheets. Experiment materials are common school and kitchen items, but schools can make it even easier for teachers by ordering premade supply kits called Mystery Packs. With a complete easy-to-follow curriculum and an ever-growing and improving library of content, both students and teachers will love exploring the mysteries of the universe.