Art of Problem Solving, publisher of the beloved Beast Academy math curriculum, has finally released the first piece of their long-awaited science curriculum: Beast Academy Science. When I asked Wanda if she was interested, she shot out an UMMM YESSSSSS! before I even finished telling her about it. And now I have it here in my hands! Hooray!
The only part that is available right now is 3A. AoPS says that level 3 (aimed at ages 8-10) will have two halves and that the other half, 3B, will be released in "early 2024." At this point, I haven't seen anything about how many other levels to expect, what will be covered in them, and when to expect their release.
I can't really make any guesses yet at how this might measure up as a full curriculum, not until the whole program is available. So for now, I'm just going to look at it as a fun supplement.
We don't have a need for Beast Academy Science. I'm super happy with how our science curriculum, Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU), has worked for us, and Wanda has already learned the concepts covered in Beast Academy Science 3A. But we want it, because we love Beast Academy that much, and because science is awesome. We haven't figured out where we'll fit it into our schedule. Probably a fun thing to do on Fridays.
My first visual impressions of Beast Academy Science 3A: It's colorful! It's attractive! It's inviting! It looks super easy to use! The comic book segments are just like those found in Beast Academy Math, with our old friends Winnie, Lizzie, Alex, and Grogg, now with new science teachers. Between the comic book segments are full-color workbook pages and "labs"—instructions for real-world activities using easily sourced materials. (A complete materials list is found at the front of the book, and can be viewed on the Beast Academy website). The whole book is beautifully designed, with attractive graphics, colorful photos and illustrations, and clear instructions. The Beast Academy website has a lot of sample pages from Beast Academy Science 3A, go take a look.
Okay, so it's pretty, and looks easy, but is it good? I've linked before to an excellent article by cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham about designing lessons to optimize retention. (I also strongly recommend his excellent book, Why Don't Students Like School?, which I reviewed in my post about the science of learning.) My initial impression is that Beast Academy Science was designed in alignment with some of the ideas put forth in that article: there is a story for each lesson, there's a central problem for the kids to be thinking about, and activities seem to be appropriate "discovery" learning: not about flashy fun, but simple and focused on the core principle of the lesson.
I've been impressed with the way Beast Academy Math has been designed to help kids develop a great problem solving mindset and skill set; as expected, Beast Academy Science looks like it delivers more of the same.
What I don't feel ready to assess is the quality and coverage of the actual science content. I'm spoiled by BFSU, which covers kindergarten through grade 8, and its strength lies in how it thoughtfully builds a whole scientific world view over those years. Beast Academy Science isn't there yet, with only one half-level available, so this is feeling pretty apples-oranges. That said—a science curriculum is only as good as your ability to actually use the ding-danged thing, and many people struggle to actually implement BFSU. BFSU takes more planning bandwidth than a lot of people have, and that's a clear strength of Beast Academy Science.
Until we've had a chance to actually try a few of the lessons, I'm not really able to give a full-throated endorsement, and until the full program is released I can't recommend it as a science curriculum, but for now, as a supplement, I'd say it looks very promising! Also promising: Wanda is begging to get started with it right now, at 6pm on a Thursday. Those Beast Academy folks, they know what they're doing.