Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2018

Mystery Science

Big questions, kids' curiosity drive impressive science curriculum

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science

Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K–5
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (4 Reviews)

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Pros: Kids engage in inquiry and experimentation as they puzzle through scientific phenomena.

Cons: Teachers may need to tweak the units to allow for more discussion and class participation.

Bottom Line: These powerful science units capitalize on elementary school students' natural curiosity.

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 to give kids 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 kids stop and jot down their ideas before sharing their thoughts with the class. Mystery Science also features five-minute videos paired with writing prompts labeled as mini-lessons. Mini-lessons are best used to support nonfiction writing and are not a substitute for the standards-aligned full Mystery Science lessons.

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Mystery Science features multimedia science units for K-5. Each lesson starts by posing a question commonly asked by kids, like "Do plants eat dirt?" or "Why are so many toys made out of plastic?" A series of short videos and prompts then guides a class discussion, followed by an experiment that can be done as a class. Lessons cover a wide range of topics, including light and sound, biodiversity, engineering, and the water cycle. Mystery Science encourages teacher collaboration with the capability to pin, tweet, or share units using various social media platforms.

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. At times, the videos can seem to lead kids a bit too much, or be a bit didactic, as the narrator sometimes makes observations for the kids. In one clip he says, "It seems like water kind of wakes up the seed and makes it start growing." Kids could benefit by pausing the video and sharing out their own ideas.

On the whole, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to reflect, puzzling over commonly asked questions. Be prepared for kids 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 kids' 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. The kindergarten and first grade Read-Along Mysteries are developmentally appropriate for kids still learning to read. They feature mysteries around questions that curious early elementary students ask like, "Why do woodpeckers peck wood?" With complete elementary units, Mystery Science is well poised to become a staple in many elementary school classrooms.

Overall Rating

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

Mystery Science takes advantage of the curiosity kids have about the world around them. Videos capture attention, amaze, and fascinate without going on too long.

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

Units are well crafted to address students' curiosity about the world and help them think critically. Kids piece concepts together around interesting questions.

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

Units come with lab experiments and sources for alternative activities if needed. Built-in questions include immediate feedback via video and text.


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 4 reviews) (4 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Judy P. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Explosive volcanoes...and non explosive ones, unlock the mystery!
Bottom line: a bit overwhelming. There's so much for kids to explore, they can easily get lost or lose their focus. But as a center, it is a fabulous tool. The kids remain engaged because there are so many different types of learning available on each topic. I would provide the focus question at the center, for each topic, so students do have something to keep referring back to.
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