Guest post written by Melanie of FinchNWren
My family has had the most wonderful opportunity this year. Bridgeway Academy was kind enough to ask me to serve as a blogging partner with them, and provided a class for our high school-aged son, Jackson, to take and for me to review on my blog, FinchNWren. We were just thrilled to partner with them — Jackson took Bridgeway Academy’s Fun With Science: Marine Biology online course when he was in fifth grade, and that class remains one of our best homeschool memories, even five years later! So we fully expected another amazing educational opportunity and we have not been disappointed. Jackson enrolled in Bridgeway Academy’s FYC Biology Course w/Lab for the 2017–2018 school year.
I have to tell you that our experiences — both Jackson’s as the student and mine as the homeschool mom — have been exceptional, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcomes. Let me tell you about 7 of my favorite ones below!
- An Exceptional Teacher. Jackson was blessed to have Carla Berg as his teacher for this high school biology course. Bridgeway Academy’s teachers are certified in their fields, and we knew from Jackson’s marine biology course that Mrs. Berg was both an experienced and interesting instructor. Her depth and breadth of scientific knowledge have been clearly amassed over a lifetime of study of, and love for, the subject. Not only is Mrs. Berg deeply versed in the sciences, she makes classes interesting and enjoyable — as well as productive — for the students.
- Interesting Class Periods. Every class period has something in it that’s a little different. Mrs. Berg includes so much variety — not only in the ways she teaches about the subject matter but also in the way students are able to interact with her and each other. So many learning styles are utilized in her teaching (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) that there really is something for every type of student. She uses colorful images, fascinating videos, group projects (yes, that really can be done in an online class), Q&As, and direct teaching, to impart knowledge and information.
- Projects. By the time the second semester of biology class is completed, Jackson will have designed and presented two research projects. Students select and create projects based on areas of biology that they’d like to learn more about. They can use PowerPoint, audio and video, Word, and blog posts to organize their information. Then, they present their projects to Mrs. Berg and to their classmates via Moodle, the online classroom where their class meets each week. Students receive rubrics for their projects that help them know how the projects will be graded and what kinds of information they’ll need to include.
I was really pleased with the research and writing Jackson did as he prepared his project. And presenting a project to an online audience/class was something that he’d never done before. It was just a fantastic learning experience and very effective for him both as a learner and a speaker/presenter.
- Tests. Yes, the tests are something I greatly appreciate! The textbook for this course is Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology. This is a rigorous book and requires an investment of time and attention on the part of the students. The tests are administered online and they really are tough. However, test-taking is a challenge that students will need to master if they’re expecting to go to college. It’s a skill set that I’m very happy that Jackson is being required to improve and more deeply develop in his studies with Bridgeway Academy.
- Connection with other students. I love that Jackson has the weekly opportunity to connect not only with his teacher but with his fellow students in biology class. In Moodle, they can use text chat, audio chat, and video chat (via their own PCs and microphones), to answer questions or to work on in-class activities with each other. He may never meet these students in real life but he’s experiencing one form of classroom work that’s different from anything he regularly does in homeschool and learning how to interact in a classroom situation.
- Dissections. This has been a very interesting, challenging, yet worthwhile, portion of this biology course. (And I confess I was personally dreading it even though I did my best not to communicate my own squeamishness to my son!). As a student, I have had only one dissection experience in my entire life, in high school (I don’t even think we did one in my college biology class). But Jackson has done THREE thus far, and there are at least four more to go this semester. Mrs. Berg knew that the idea of dissection would make many students uneasy. So first, she talked with them about their discomfort. She explained to them how dissections worked. Then, for the first one (an earthworm), she showed them a video of an actual dissection. She explained the entire process step-by-step. Then, she walked the students through every part of the process online as they all completed the dissections in their own homes. It could not have been a calmer or clearer presentation of the dissection process. And with my own discomfort, it was taught so much better by Mrs. Berg than I could have as a non-sciencey mom. And there truly is the purpose in dissection — we have learned so much about intelligent design and a good Creator in the process!
- Character Growth. Several areas apart from scholastic work that I’ve seen Jackson really grow in during this course are related to character. He has grown over the course of the year in personal responsibility for his studies, faithfulness, and pursuit of excellence. He has really had to put forth his best effort in this class, whether it’s in class participation, test-taking, weekly assignments, or his presentations. He has stayed on top of his at-home work, which includes everything from chapter reading, Q&As, research, and the dissections. Mrs. Berg gives reminders from time to time of due dates, but each student is responsible for watching for those, doing them, and getting things turned in via the Moodle site. This class has challenged him intellectually and scholastically, and personally as well. And it has produced some fantastic fruit in him.
Does all of this sound like my family and I are enormous fans of Bridgeway Academy? We are, wholeheartedly. This biology course has provided so much for my son and in him, because he has been challenged, encouraged, and enabled to learn, stretch, and grow. We are so pleased with his biology experience. I encourage you to investigate Bridgeway Academy. It might be just the right fit — and blessing — for your family!