Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: The Fascinating World of Insects by BrainFood Learning

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Alyssa is intrigued with insects and asks so many questions about them when exploring the great outdoors. I had the chance to review The Fascinating World of Insects designed by BrainFood Learning as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. It was perfect timing since we just finished studying several different types of insects and their life cycles. BrainFood Learning is a company that sells award-winning educational videos. The fact-filled videos were produced by Bryce and Jennifer Mooney.
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The informative DVD covered a variety of insects within a reasonable 43-minute time frame. The video contained appropriate content that was easily understood thanks to the clear and simplified explanations. Each video clip lasted approximately 3 minutes per insect. A female narrator discussed the insect's features, their diet, abilities, the benefits to humans, and their adaptations. There are photographs and live footage of insects included in the fascinating content. Interesting trivia and facts are sprinkled in a gentle manner throughout the videos. Did you know that ladybugs could be the color blue? Did you know that only male grasshoppers sing by rubbing their wings or legs together? Another factoid we learned was that water striders can jump and land without getting wet. They also have hairs on their body that capture air and help them float. 

Insects Featured
A variety of specific insects were addressed in the video. Alyssa learned about 11 different insects including:
  • Grasshoppers
  • Ladybugs
  • Rhino Beetles
  • Fireflies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Honey Bees
  • Water Striders
  • Ants
  • Praying Mantis 
  • Dragonflies
  • Butterflies
We saw a menu with options including "Play All," "Insects," and "Reviews" once the video started. The "Play All" option enabled us to watch and listen to the video in its entirety showing information for all of the insects. You also have the option of choosing "Insects" for a specific or focused study on one particular insect. Additionally, your child could choose to click on "Reviews" which will enable him or her to skip straight to the review and quiz formats.
Menu Options
Insect Choices Displayed On Television Screen
Review Section
The "Play All" option begins with a short introduction to the insect world describing common insect features. The video reinforced previously learned concepts including the fact that insects have six legs, compound eyes, feelers called antennae, an exoskeleton, and three body parts. After the introduction, Alyssa was introduced to one specific insect at a time. I was most impressed with the thorough review at the end of the video. The review section is broken down into five different formats:
1.) Review Insect Flashcards

Insect Name Shown With Photograph
2.) Review Your Insects
Recognize Insect and Choose Correct Answer
3.) Review Insect Anatomy
Ant Anatomy Diagram

4.) Review Insect Facts
Answer Revealed With Photograph
5.) Review Vocabulary Terms
Choice C (Entomologist)
Please Note: Our DVD screen is very dirty. The content appears much clearer on a television or computer screen. I had a difficult time capturing shots without a glare.

Age Range
These videos were designed to be used with children of all ages. Older children and adults may find the content appealing depending on their interests. The company states that children as young as 2 and as old as 13 have benefited from viewing the video as indicated here. I was told this product would be suitable for children ages 3-11. However, I believe this product would be more appropriate for children ages 5-9 or for children in K-3rd grade due to the format and the more advanced vocabulary terms displayed in this video.

Our Experiences
My daughter was absolutely thrilled when the package arrived in our mailbox. She enthusiastically asked to watch it the first day. I used the Fascinating World of Insects video with my five-year-old daughter as a supplement to our homeschool science curriculum, nature studies, and unit studies this summer. We also used this resource in conjunction with lapbooking, notebooking, and copywork activities. Alyssa almost always selected the "Play All" option in order to learn about every insect mentioned in the video in one sitting. Many days she watched the video on her portable DVD player while we traveled or while I worked at the computer. She actively participated in the review questions at the end of the video. She literally yelled out the answers to the questions and applauded herself when correct. It makes me happy to see her interacting and learning so much from the video while having fun.
Review Time!
After completing the review section, she chose particular insect video clips to view again. Alyssa learned how bees make honey, how caterpillars transformed into butterflies, and that grasshoppers spit a brown liquid out to protect themselves when in danger. She also learned that some ladybugs taste and smell bad to predators and that they pretend to be dead. She couldn't believe that there were four types of rhino beetles including the Atlas, Elephant, Japanese, and Hercules rhino beetles. We would often explore the backyard or a nearby park for insects after watching the video.

She watched the video numerous times during the review period. I actually lost count, but I know for sure she watched it several times a week and she frequently watched it more than once a day. She truly enjoyed viewing the labeled diagrams. She asked me if I could print the diagrams out so that she could add it to her science binder. Unfortunately, I had to tell her it was not possible. I guess she wasn't happy with my response, because one day I caught her copying and labeling a diagram of an ant on notebook paper while the video was paused.

What We Liked
  • The colorful close-up insect still life photos and live video footage of insects in their natural habitat were absolutely beautiful. Our attention was immediately captured by the vividness or clarity.
  • My daughter retained the material taught in the video. She was constantly telling family, friends, and even strangers while in my presence about the facts learned. She actually tried quizzing several people. Did you know that one of the strongest creatures on Earth which can be kept as a pet is the harmless rhino beetle which can lift 850 times its own weight?
  • The length of the video was reasonable for the intended age range.
  • Sections of the video can be viewed repeatedly. Your child has the option of learning about all 11 insects in one sitting or choosing one particular insect to focus on. 
  • Vocabulary was displayed in large print on the screen with clear pronunciations and simplified definitions. The terminology was more advanced than I expected, but this was a pleasant surprise and will help develop Alyssa's vocabulary. It doesn't hurt to expose children to a larger vocabulary. Vocabulary terms such as entomologist, larva, elytra, wingspan, metamorphosis, species, adaptation, colony, predator, scientific name, proboscis, and pollination are several of the "big words" your child will be taught. One new word was introduced per insect plus the introductory vocabulary word. 
  • Diagrams were displayed illustrating the anatomy of the insect. I appreciated that the diagrams were labeled. One label popped up at a time which means my daughter was learning even more vocabulary. The narrator discussed each new insect anatomy term as it was introduced.
Rhino Beetle Diagram
  • This DVD is not full of animated fluff instead the content is high-quality educational information that truly captures the child's attention. The company states that they want the video to "educate as well as entertain." I believe they have accomplished this goal with this fabulous DVD series. In the chart below, each life cycle stage was verbally described while showing illustrations and live footage.  
Butterfly Life Cycle Chart
  • Several review sections (2, 4, and 5) provide comprehension questions in multiple-choice format. Alyssa was given three choices and the chance to respond aloud. An appropriate amount of response time was given. However, please keep in mind that the response time may be too fast for some younger children. Review questions announced by a female or boy narrator required the child to recognize either the insect's name, characteristics, facts, anatomy, and even quizzed them on the vocabulary terms. Furthermore, the third review section was short and sweet revealing the anatomy of an ant while discussing the parts of an insect.
Choice C (Adaptation)
Three Multiple-Choice Answer Choices
Possible Cons
I hear the Texas crickets chirping loudly . . . still thinking . . . sorry, I have absolutely nothing for you. We absolutely LOVED everything about this DVD.

Possible Vendor Suggestions
  • I definitely suggest extending the series to include reptiles, amphibians, spiders and arachnids, owls, penguins, and other animals or subtopics. You could even extend the series to include other topics that explore geography or social studies concepts such as states, continents, and community workers.
  • Could you possibly create an accompaniment activity CD containing lesson plans for insect crafts, games, lapbooks, coloring pages, and projects for each insect in the video? This CD could be included in the case and price giving the DVD even more value and benefits to customers. Update: I just found out that BrainFood Learning has created curriculum lesson plans that correlate with their videos. Click on the link provided. 
  • I would consider adding more life cycle charts to the video or to future videos in the series. I appreciated the inclusion of the butterfly life cycle chart, but wished that each insect video clip contained a similar chart. 
Overall Thoughts
I hope to eventually own all of the DVD's. I would love to utilize The Fascinating World series this fall as a supplement to her zoology studies. I was thoroughly impressed with the comprehensiveness of the content. Additionally, the organization and presentation of the material was quite impressive. She often chose to take this video with her when on long road trips or when grocery shopping. She plans to pack the DVD in her luggage for our upcoming camping trip. I was thankful and grateful that we had an educational video for her to watch that managed to keep her attention. A sense of relief was felt when I realized she could actually watch it without my constant supervision.

Alyssa's Thoughts (Age 5)
"I really liked the DVD! I had fun learning about ALL of the insects. I didn't know that ladybugs could be blue or that praying mantis could be pink. Mommy, did you know that only female mosquitoes bite and suck your blood? Oh . . . and daddy . . . the hard elytra on the outside protects the ladybug's soft inside wings. The butterfly and ladybug pictures were pretty. I thought the videos of the insects in their habitat were cool. I think the photos and videos were neat too, because it felt like I was outside looking at them."

I had to stop her at that point, because I am sure you can tell that she found the video stimulating and enjoyable. Alyssa's favorite insects to learn about were the butterfly, praying mantis, rhino beetle, ladybug, and honeybees. I think she would have listed the entire group of insects if given the chance. 

The Fascinating World of Insects DVD is available for the affordable price of $14.99. Check out the video below to preview the video content.

Other Products in the Series
All three of the DVD's in the series are sold separately for only $14.99 each. The following titles are included in this series:
I highly, highly recommend The Fascinating World of Insects DVD from BrainFood Learning to any homeschooling family with children who love observing and studying insects especially in their natural environment. This would also be a great resource or tool to utilize during a nature study or a science insect unit. I believe teachers and parents alike will benefit from having their children watch this educational DVD. This could also be given to babysitters especially if you pair it up with a craft or activity.

Social Media
You can preview the videos from this series on their You Tube channel or read a variety articles on the BrainFood Learning blog. Be sure to like the company on Facebook too!

Head on over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew to read more reviews for all three of the videos.
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