Review by Christie Thomas, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2014

Science Monster

Accessible content has limited interactivity and lacks depth

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4-8
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Pros: Educators will appreciate the site’s accessible language, kid-friendly tone, and (mostly) clear scientific explanations.

Cons: Basically an online textbook with an easygoing attitude, the site has little for kids to do or create.

Bottom Line: Though interactivity and sophistication are low, the site does offer kid-friendly science text.

Teachers using a flipped approach can have students read the site’s kid-friendly content before in-class activities. For example, kids could read “Layers of the Earth” prior to building clay planet models during class. In a related unit, the site’s “Volcanoes” content could be used, as one of several information sources. Kids could then work in jigsaw groups to compare details and explanations. With this upper-elementary and middle school audience, teachers will probably want to provide students with note-taking guidelines or recording sheets. The astronomy content provides similar possibilities.

When studying plants, teachers could set up in-class stations: Some students can use the site to learn or review monocots and dicots, others can practice using the site's “Petal Pusher” resource. Yet another group could then observe or dissect plant specimens for hands-on practice. Or, for an inquiry approach, students could start by exploring plants of the two types and listing noticeable differences, then using the website to gather information.

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Science Monster makes an immediate impression with white and neon print over its black screen. There are no accounts or logins; simply click on one of the main categories (Earth, life, or physical science; astronomy; technology) to access content. Some sections have just one topic, while others –- like astronomy –- offer more. Helpfully, longer content entries have numbered screen pages.

Though the graphics are zany, the site is text-heavy -- basically, an online textbook. The language here is casual and kid-friendly, with a conversational feel. The Earth Science section offers online quizzes, and each section has one or more rather unpolished games or applets. Some of these support the content (“Petal Pusher” for monocots and dicots), but others don't. Specifically, the Astronomy section's applets contain far more minutiae than appropriate for the site's age group.

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While Science Monster has its share of limitations, this site does offer something valuable: kid-friendly science text. Students can learn or review actual science content with decent explanations and usable analogies; this holds especially true within the Earth Science section. Within the Physical Science section, the description of gravity may give some teachers pause. In general, though, the content isn't problematic, and it's written in a way kids will understand. The site’s limited scope could also be an advantage; it won’t overwhelm students.

Interactive diagrams, more online quizzes, pop-up vocabulary, and tips for in-class or at-home activities would all make nice additions to the site. The games, too, could be improved by connecting them more specifically to content. And teachers would love to have worksheets and graphic organizers to accompany the site's applets. Without these features, though, Science Monster may be only marginally useful.

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Overall Rating

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

The familiar, conversational tone may hook those willing to read, but most kids will miss the interactive diagrams and pop-up vocabulary. Short, simple games sometimes connect kids to content, but won’t ignite enthusiasm.

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

Science content is shared in an informal way that might help kids access concepts. The Earth Science sections are particularly clear and boast digital quizzes. Games don’t always support learning goals.

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

Accessing content requires reading skills, but the site lacks audio options or embedded definitions and links. Though navigation and gameplay are fairly straightforward, some kids may want more support.


Common Sense Reviewer
Christie Thomas Classroom teacher

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