Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2013

Discover Science

Bring the California Academy of Sciences into your classroom

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Teachers say (3 Reviews)
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K-10 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Lets kids make observations on and build ideas about the world around them.

Cons: Videos and classroom experiences aren't as fun as seeing exhibits at the museum.

Bottom Line: If you can't visit the Cal Academy in person, this site delivers highly interactive ways to access its resources and research.

Teachers can design biology lessons around current research and experiments. "Anytime" lesson plans are available for classroom use. Other lesson plans support field trips to the California Academy of Sciences. These lessons cover pre-K to high school topics like animal behavior, geologic processes, biodiversity, evolution, and climate change. Lesson plans are currently aligned to California science standards. The site could be strengthened by organizing its lessons in a way that's more user-friendly to teachers outside of California. Local teachers can borrow classroom kits from the museum as long as they attend a training session at the California Academy of Sciences; training sessions cost $35 each.

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The California Academy of Sciences site brings the resources and experience of San Francisco's museum into the classroom. Visitors can access multimedia collections, lectures, and Academy research. The site also provides up-to-date science news videos, and Academy scientists and curators blog about their research experiences. The Science Heroes section highlights these men and women who work for the Academy, and Citizen Science allows kids in California to participate in actual research by collecting specimens and data.

Standout lessons and videos:
"Energy: A Day in My Life Lesson Plan" -- Kids fill out a chart indicating how they use energy and how they could decrease their carbon footprint.
"Farallones Webcam" -- Control a live camera as you view the Farallon Islands, home to whales, seals, and exotic birds.
"Gene Therapy for Color Blindness" -- View a video clip showing how gene therapy has cured color blindness in squirrel monkeys.

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It's particularly powerful to see what scientists are working on right now, and a key strength is that the featured scientists include men and women of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, encouraging kids to participate themselves. Kids can choose from a few highly engaging learning tools, including three live webcams that let them manipulate camera angles directly from their computers and observe sharks, penguins, whales, seals, and exotic birds in their natural habitats. Also, the video gallery has a broad variety of resources, from quick clips to entire Academy lectures.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The interactive website shows kids what's happening at the California Academy of Sciences right now.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids can view actual specimens and hear about current research. Videos and webcams show scientists in action and animals in their native environments.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Lessons and videos are available in English, Spanish, and Chinese. The Academy Community allows participants to upload photos and post about their experiences.

Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Ana V. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Dewitt Clinton High School
Bronx, NY
Excellent videos that show science in action!

Excellent tool that could serve kids by exposing them to science in ways that are not always accessible from their regular setting.

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