Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review of The Old Schoolhouse’s Download N Go Expedition Australia

Review of The Old Schoolhouse’s Download N’ Go Expedition Australia

As part of tryouts for the Homeschool Crew, we were offered the opportunity to use and review The Old Schoolhouse’s Download N Go Series product entitled Expedition Australia. The Download N Go series combines thematic unit studies with lapbooking to provide a fun and complete hands-on learning experience.

Expedition Australia was designed for grades K-4 and is used over a five day period. Prior to beginning the unit study, we visited our local library to borrow books suggested from the reading list. While a couple of them were not available, we found ample age appropriate substitutes. Additional items needed for the lapbook portion are file folders, brads, glue sticks and crayons. While it is not suggested, I chose to use cardstock for the lapbook projects as it is more durable than regular paper.

The days are broken down as follows:

Day 1: Where on Earth Is Australia?

Day 2: Some of the Special Places in Australia

Day 3: A Bit of Australian History

Day 4: Cool Things to Know About Australia

Day 5: Fun and Games in Australia

Each day provides a location to study, geographic feature, indigenous animal, Australian word and a historical point. Mediums suggested for study are books, online videos and websites along with worksheets contained in the document. The information is broken down into small study periods followed by a worksheet or lapbook activity. There is a fair amount of repetition within the material which aids memorization.

I used this product with my children who are in grades K and 3. We began the unit study, by learning about continents. Continents were defined and then labeled on a world map along with a list view to be inserted into the lapbook. A color-coded map was also used to visualize the division of the continents. We studied the Great Barrier Reef and the animals that live there. We began a map of Australia where we labeled major cities and geographic locations throughout the week. Lastly, we took an in-depth look at koalas. On day two, we learned about the six states and regions of Australia. Ayers Rock was presented as a unique geographic feature and the animal of the day was the kangaroo. Days 3 and 4 covered history, flags, wombats and platypuses. On day 5, we learned about the outback, boomerangs, Tasmanian devils and national anthems. A discussion of our favorite topics over the five days provided an opportunity to review what was learned.

The unit study is peppered with poetry, additional facts to explorer and supplemental books and links. Learning Australian words along with their pronunciation provided fun opportunities to speak like a real Aussie throughout the week!

Pros: This was a thorough study of the country considering its target audience and timeframe. The cost is very reasonable at $7.95 and it is available via immediate download. I liked the mix of traditional and digital materials used throughout the study. Hyperlinks within the document take you directly to the worksheet or URL needed so you don’t have to search to find what you need. I thought the jockeying back and forth between teaching and hands-on activities was perfect for this age group. It kept things moving along and interesting. The lapbook provides a finished product of what you have learned and can be included with your portfolio and as a cherished keepsake.

Cons: There was a fair amount of writing that was sometimes frustrating for my five year old. Some of the websites contained information that was beyond the target age group and required me to simplify it for my children. There were a few technical glitches such as hyperlinks within the document that didn’t work and one external link to a website that was no longer available. Some of the items used in the lapbook did not line up or fold properly. A veteran lapbooker will have no problem fixing these but a novice might be confused. A final layout of the lapbook was not included and would have been helpful. None of these are showstoppers but I felt obligated to include this as part of my review.

Overall, I thought it was a great product and well worth the time and investment.