Forget The People's Court, Moral Court, and even Judge Judy : for pure entertainment, nothing beats Science Court. For six years, cartoon characters on the successful television show debated scientific principles in the courtroom. Tom Synder Productions capitalizes on this brilliant show by moving entire episodes to CD and adding group activities for classrooms grades 4 through 6.
A Jury of 30
The Science Court series is designed for teachers to use with the entire classroom. The 12 episodes in the series -- which are sold separately for $80 each -- cover topics such as Electric Current, Fossils, Inertia, Living Things, Particles in Motion, or Seasons. We looked at the Gravity episode. Each episode begins with a legal conflict that only the truth of science can resolve. For example, in the Gravity episode, one party sells a product that helps you lose weight by changing your gravity. Your goal is to listen to testimony -- both reasonable and outright wacky -- then decide what the facts are and predict what the jury will decide.
As the teacher, you begin by dividing the class into teams of four and entering the number of teams into the program. The program also includes a random picker to select a team and a player on that team, although groups can answer questions together just as well. The CD plays the episode with three breaks for questions and coursework. During each break, you can either read questions from the enclosed worksheets or make the character Jen Betters ask questions by clicking on the microphone icon.
Normally, as the teacher, you will judge whether the answer is correct or not. However, if the answer is wrong, and you click on the Incorrect button, the program jumps to the next question instead of the correct answer. To work around this minor inconvenience, you must always select See Answer before clicking on the Correct or Incorrect buttons.
The questions are generally more thought-provoking than factual. For example, one question is "How does gravity make a scale work?" The questions are loosely based on the video clips that precede them, and at least a few of the questions are answered in the clip following the worksheet.
Macworld's Buying Advice
The Science Court television show is an entertaining way to learn about concepts such as gravity, inertia, and electricity. The CD version enhances the show by adding opportunities for classroom participation that let students become more active in the process. Teachers will be best off accompanying the lessons with hands-on demonstrations, but Science Court: Gravity is a captivating introduction to the laws of mass.Natural Attraction: Julie Bean illustrates that objects with larger mass exert more gravity.A Weighty Question: Aside from the issue with the Incorrect button, the interface is simple to use.