“Chemistry 101 is both a highly informative and greatly entertaining introduction to the world of chemistry. Comprehensive and exhaustively researched, this series brings to life the fun and wonder of a subject that students traditionally fear.” ~Ian Guch, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chemistry
For the past few years I’ve been searching for a homeschool science curriculum on DVD. We have textbooks and CD-ROMs, but my boys think textbooks are boring; and just because a computer program is interactive doesn’t necessarily make it interesting. Science should be fun! I was really hoping to find some video lessons that the whole family could watch together. We always enjoyed the Moody Science video series, but for the higher grades we needed something more formally structured like an actual course. Likewise, I wanted something that focused on the facts without wasting precious learning time on silly entertainment.
Finally this summer I discovered the 101 Series by Westfield Studios. Biology 101 had been released in October 2006 and Chemistry 101 was released in October 2011. The studio seriously needs to work on marketing themselves more widely because I sure wish I’d have found out about them sooner. This series is exactly what I was looking for! The 101 Series is developed and hosted by Wes Olson who is a Multnomah Bible College graduate, a veteran filmmaker of 20 years, and a homeschooling father.
On their website, the Olson family shared a similar story to mine: “Tammy was looking for a biology curriculum to assist her in homeschooling her two highschool age sons. She could not find what she was looking for on the curriculum market. So Wes, with his 15 years of corporate film production experience, and his natural love of science, decided to make the curriculum she was looking for.”
Since Wes Olson is an experienced filmmaker, the 101 Series is a high quality production. His family was involved in the project, too. Wes was the on-camera talent. The positions of camera operator, lighting, continuity and sound were handled by his oldest daughter, Rebekah. His son Lucas composed the soundtrack using a library of music to develop the score. Another son, Micah, designed the 101 Series website and the DVD artwork.
Chemistry 101 is a complete overview of chemistry from a Christian perspective. Anyone who says the Bible and science don’t go together should watch this DVD, because it shows that the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, many of the world’s great chemists were Bible-believing creationists whose religious faith was the basis of their interest in science. Chemistry 101 is pure science and it’s not preachy at all, but it will truly give you an appreciation of God’s order and design in the basic building blocks that make up His wonderful creation.
Chemistry 101 takes what could potentially be a dry, difficult subject and makes it an exciting, easy to understand, visually rich experience. It’s amazing how much information they manage to fit into this fascinating educational program. The script was meticulously researched, and the content is outstanding. This comprehensive course will guide you and your family through all the essentials of chemistry and the periodic table of the elements. Wes Olson brings chemistry to life by including fun facts and the history behind the science. He spotlights various scientists from ancient alchemists to nuclear physicists. He also performs experiments (including the famous Mentos Diet Coke Explosion) that demonstrate the concepts he’s teaching.
Wes Olson has a knack for presenting the basics of chemistry in an engaging, eye-catching way. Creatively utilizing colorful graphics and humorous asides, he masterfully draws his viewers into the amazing world of chemistry. Wes has a good understanding of how people learn, and he uses a systematic layered approach to teaching. He explains complex concepts in simple terms, and even uses clever mnemonic devices to emphasize important terms to remember. The episodes themselves are well-paced, though they do seem to go quickly just because they’re so interesting. This keeps you always looking forward to watching the next one!
The Chemistry 101 course is geared toward high school students ages 15 and up, but the DVD was designed to be interesting for the whole family. (My husband and I watch it with our 17- and 12-year old sons, and we always end up having a great discussion after each episode.) For anyone who hasn’t studied chemistry, this entertaining and informative program provides a solid foundation. For those who already have some background in the subject, it provides a thorough review that is sure to include a few facts that you didn’t know or had forgotten. I never took chemistry in high school or college (I preferred botany and geology), but I enjoy watching Chemistry 101. My husband is a chemist (he has a B.S. in Chemistry), and he was actually surprised at how well done it is. Hardly an episode goes by where he doesn’t exclaim, “I never knew that!”
My husband was particularly impressed with the interesting connection made between chemistry and physics, the insights into the lives of historical scientists, and the excellent introduction to the Periodic Table and its development. If you’ve ever had trouble understanding the Periodic Table of the Elements, you will want to get Chemistry 101 just to see Wes Olson’s in-depth visual explanation! Rather than having students memorize the periodic table, he dives right into atomic theory and quantum mechanics to show why atoms of different elements behave the way they do. The organization of the periodic table makes more sense when you approach it this way.
Chemistry 101 is divided into four main sections: The Road to the Periodic Table, Chemistry Essentials, Meet the Elements, and The Future of Chemistry. (See complete list of contents below.) The set of four DVDs contains nineteen chapters of 20-45 minutes each, for a total running time of over 11 hours. On the fourth disc is a printable PDF guidebook covering the material presented in each segment along with multiple-choice quizzes and thought-provoking discussion questions. Also included is a one-year high school Course Accreditation Program booklet with additional assignments and activities for families who want to use Chemistry 101 as a full-length class.
Even if you just view the DVDs without looking at the study guide you will learn a lot! But the included study guide and quizzes will help you to reinforce and remember all of that knowledge. My suggestion for homeschoolers would be to watch the whole program straight through once as a general overview; then go back and review each individual episode while doing the corresponding assignments. I highly recommend Chemistry 101, not just for use in a homeschool environment, but for anyone who wants to learn about the science of chemistry.
Wes Olson also produced Biology 101 and is currently working on Physics 101 to be released in late 2013. We can't wait!
Chemistry 101 Contents:
(PART 4) - THE FUTURE
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