Review by Christie Thomas, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2015

Sparticl

Teen-focused collection of science snippets hosts class-ready content

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
  • Health & Wellness
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Quirky teen-motivating avatars, badges, and comment options complement thoughtful, well-curated content.

Cons: Teachers can’t customize content or communicate with students, and teen comments can be unenlightening (to put it mildly).

Bottom Line: A trustworthy go-to tool when hunting for kid-appropriate science content, especially when you're looking for real-world connections.

Make Sparticl a stop on your quest to find good online content for your classroom. Create an account and click on “Collect this” to acquire resources for next week’s unit on tornadoes. Use a Wile E. Coyote video clip to start the day’s discussion of kinetic energy, or practice brain biology with a game of building neurons. Have kids skim online articles on ghost snails and pink slugs to get excited about gastropods. Remember that some resources are rather advanced; a worksheet (made by you) may help them focus on important aspects. Note that kids may need guidance finding specific resources; unfortunately, they can’t search for your collections or even link to them from a shared group.

Feel confident letting your kids loose on Sparticl; its content is well curated and safe. Use this as a place to send kids for research articles on the science of sports, class debates on GMOs, or extensions for your space unit.

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Sparticl is a curated collection of science resources geared toward teens. Topics are organized into six major categories (like Living Things and Earth & Space), each further separated into subcategories. The search bar ("What are you curious about?") will autofill with possible topics, or searchers can view a list of results filtered by type. Content includes text (articles or websites), video clips, games, online quizzes or interactives, images, hands-on activities, and also profiles of scientists. Helpfully, content is labeled and color-coded by type.

Accessing content does not require an account, but logged-in users connect to the site’s social media and game-like components. Users can create eccentric avatars and earn points for viewing resources, adding comments, and answering quiz questions. Users can also create their own collections (private or public) and create or join groups.

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Sparticl is definitely good –- and safe –- for student exploration. Kids will love viewing short videos and stumbling on the weird-but-maybe-true ("Does the crunch in a fig cookie come from wasp parts?"). Interactive websites, games, and hands-on activities add “something to do,” and embedded quiz questions challenge kids to find specific info. Though there’s nothing inappropriate, some resources will be too advanced for many kids. Also, most topics don’t lay groundwork for developing deep understanding; a few may even support misconceptions. 

Students with accounts can join a class group, but teachers will wish for options to assign info to the group, evaluate the class’s use of specific resources, or monitor comments. As it is, student comments aren't really moderated, and they're mostly uninspiring or unhelpful. Teacher-created collections can support classroom learning, though they would be even more powerful if they included supporting text, sequencing content, or related links.

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Overall Rating

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

Seriously interesting science, ranging from articles to videos to scientist profiles, is also brief enough to hold attention. Site design is attractive and intuitive. Changeable avatars, comment options, and badges will appeal to many kids.

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

Appealing content and challenging quiz questions motivate kids to read (or listen) to remember. But this isn’t a stop for mastering concepts or scientific practices. And teachers will miss options to customize content for their classrooms.

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

Simple interface, clear organization, plus a few key “What is this?” links cover almost everything. Still, users may miss help options. The site could do more to support kids by ranking content complexity or adding definitions.


Common Sense Reviewer
Christie Thomas Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Todd B. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Lancaster Mennonite School
Lancaster, PA
Excellent clearinghouse for science information on the web.

Sparticl has a very broad selection of resources, providing an excellent platform to encourage good student research. The site is particularly helpful for those students whose research skills aren't well developed. The search function is wonderful, with easy-to-use filters and a broad range of topics and types of results. Just having Sparticl to restrict their search saves time and allows students to refine their research more efficiently. My only request is for a reading / academic level designation. That would help me help students.

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