Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rainforest Journey (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

I love science. I love the way that science can open an entirely new world that otherwise would be inaccessible to students if it were not for the amazing photography and information from scientists who have studied things in depth.  Whether it's the deep depths of the ocean, the frozen tundra of the arctic, or the deep vacuum of space, had it not been for the many scientists who tested a hypothesis or trudged through the unexplored, we would probably still believe the world was flat.

We were given the opportunity to review a subscription based online life science curriculum called Rainforest Journey from EdTechLens over the last few weeks. For this review,  we were given a one year subscription to the 1st and 2nd grade levels of Rainforest Journey to use with both Ashleigh and Garrett.  We had high hopes for this program as the website and introduction video looked amazing and as a family we love science.  We were pretty excited about checking it out.

What is Rainforest Journey?

Rainforest Journey is a browser based life science curriculum that uses original photographs and videos of the rain forest along with text narration to teach topics such as animal adaptations, camouflage, the water cycle, and genetics.  Boasting a engaging, media-rich, interactive digital learning experience, Rainforest Journey is the first installment of science offerings from company EdTechLens,  

Students are given individual log in credentials for their particular class.  Rainforest Journey does a great job keeping track of the students progress which can be viewed both on the Teachers landing page or under the Student's course outline page.  A simple click on a button brings the student to where they last left off. 

Each grade level is made up of 34 lessons that are divided up into individual units and chapters.  Students are given individual log in credentials for their particular class.  These login credentials are for each individual student and allows the student to log into the class assigned by the teacher.  Teachers are able to log in through their own login credentials to review lessons, check student progress, and grade tests.  Both interfaces are user friendly and easy to navigate.

At the end of each lesson, there would be a Lesson Assessment.  These are one to two pages of printable activities such as fill in the blanks questions which allow you to gauge how much your child is retaining.   

At the end of each unit, students are reminded of important vocabulary words as well as their definitions and illustrations are provided to help emphasize important concepts learned in the lessons.  Once students feel they know the material, they are then able to take a series of assessment quizzes which consist of multiple choice questions as well as open ended essay questions.  Immediate feed back is given on the multiple choice questions but teachers need to later grade the open ended questions. However, sample answers are provided for comparison. 

How We Used It

This program was primarily used with Ashleigh during the course of this review as Garrett showed little to no interest after his first session.  Two to three times a week, Ashleigh and I would sit down together and log into either the 1st or 2nd grade studies and work with the program for about 15-20 minutes at a time.   While narration is available for the reading portions of the programs, Ashleigh preferred that I actually read it over the voice on the program. Reading these narratives are very short (usually only a couple of sentences at a time) and we could easily complete a chapter or two in our 10-15 minutes. 

What we Thought

Like almost any child in the 5-10 year old age range, Ashleigh LOVES animals.  Gorgeous photographs of animals is a plus in her book.  Because of this, Rainforest Journey was a good fit because it indeed has some very beautiful and captivating photographs of colorful and exotic animals that one cannot find in their back yard. 

Long Necked Giraffe Weevil - Just one of the many interesting and beautiful creatures you'll encounter. 

Ashleigh had a really great time looking at the gorgeous photographs. However, there was one thing that I found severely lacking - the actual interactive, media rich content.  For both grade levels, many of the lessons would consist of a couple of narratives and a few photographs.  The narratives were extremely simple and while interesting, I just felt they lacked in material substance.

But the biggest disappointment was the lack of the videos.   Maybe I was just expecting a bit more because of the amazing video introduction on the home page of the program. But in the course of using both the 1st and the 2nd grade levels, there have been a very small handful of videos and those videos were extremely short.    Most of this curriculum is reading - very little of it is anything that could be considered interactive.   Maybe in higher grade levels this might change but for both the 1st and 2nd Grade levels, where interesting and interactive content is almost a must, it just wasn't there.

Another thing we found very confusing was the "Trip Journal".  The website says that this Journal is the diary of a Mother/Son who traveled together to the rain forest and shared their experiences. However, the diary logs are not in order and are scattered throughout the lessons. For example, the first time we saw one of these diary logs, it was in regards to "Phil and Marianna" and you had no idea who they were or what as going on.  Luckily, an area is included on the Course Outline Dashboard that shows "Primary Sources" so we were able to look ahead and find the diary entries in order and find out what was going on.

I do think as a supplement, Rainforest Journey is nice and children will enjoy it.  However, to actually call it a curriculum is a bit of a stretch.  It takes longer for children to actually do the lesson assessments then it does to do the actual lesson,  While EdTechLens's website says that this curriculum is aligned with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) and the New York State Science Standards, I just can't help but feel that much of the information is overly simplified and not nearly as informative as what one can find in a grade level text book.    This is especially true when considering that the cost of a one year subscription per grade is $50 for 1 student.  One can purchase a very nice life science textbook with many more photographs and much more information in the pages for the same price or even a high quality documentary on the Rain forest. .   

 It's a great concept and I hope to see EdTechLens expand this idea.  By adding more content, especially the promised "media rich, interactive" content that is advertised, this could be a winner. As it is, it just falls flat.

Be sure to visit the following social media platforms for more information on EdTechLens and Rainforest Journey.

Seventy-Five members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were given the opportunity to review Rainforest Journey.  Click the banner below to read what they have to say. 

Rainforest Journey EdTechLens Review


  1. I too was VERY confused on the trip journal. We were doing 5th grade, and nothing that I could find yet, even tied to the trip journal. I just happened to find it while trying to navigate the website. I love this idea, but also agree that if things were added and expanded, it would be much better.

    1. oops this Tasha, and apparently Edyn was logged in and not me. haha


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