- Reviewed on Thursday, June 18, 2009
- Grades Used: 2nd - 3rd
- Dates used: 2008-2009
Top Secret Adventures is put out by Highlights and works much like a book club does. About every 6 weeks you get a kit in the mail. If you don't like it, send it back. If you like it, keep it and pay for it and expect the next one to arrive in another 6 weeks. Currently, I pay about $16.50 for each kit. Yes, once you add up the cost of all the kits, that's a lot to pay for a geography curriculum! However, we decided that it was worth it for how excited our ds was to learn Geography (and spreading out the cost helped).
When we got our first kit, it arrived with a world map that we hung on the wall so we could locate the countries. It also included a "passport" and stickers with all the country names on them. My ds gets to put a passport stamp (one of the stickers) in his book after he completes each kit.
So, what does the kit consist of? It includes a plastic baggie that your child opens first. Inside is a jigsaw puzzle. This is put together to figure out which country is in need of their help. It also contains some basic information on the country. Then, your "agent" can then open the top secret file. Inside is a guide book which has information on the country, a puzzle workbook, and 6 suspects. Your "agent" has to solve the mystery of what was stole, who stole it, and where is it hidden? To solve the mystery, they do the exercises in the workbook and solve the puzzles to gain clues. Once they've gathered all the clues, the case can be solved. All the while, they are looking up the answers in the guide book - and learning about the country.
My ds finds these kits engaging, interesting, and fun to do. I love them because he's learning! I use these as our Geography curriculum by having him solve the crime over a few days. Then, we go through the guide book together picking out the most pertinant facts. I make up a simple quiz based on what he learned going through the workbook and what we went over together and that gives him his grade. He really has learned and retained a lot of information from these kits. I especially enjoy that pretty much everything I need to teach is included right in with each kit. There's no extra legwork - which I highly appreciate since I have to do that extra legwork for other curriculums we use.
Cons: Well, obviously the price. There are other Geography curriculums out there that cost much that Top Secret Adventures does overall. And, I've used some of those other curriculums. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with them, I really appreciate having all I need in one neat little package as opposed to having to run around making copies and putting together craft supplies, and coming up with meaningful activities that my kids don't really care about any way.
Also, the workbook is consumable. I would really like to save these to use with my other 2 students. I try to preserve as much as possible. I haven't checked to see if Highlights will sell just the workbooks without the kits.
Lastly, I noticed that many of the workbooks have the same activities. I thought this would get boring. My ds doesn't seem to care and has tons of fun completeing these. But, it might be something to consider with some kids.
I would say these would be appropriate for kids about late 2nd grade to 6th. I think younger than that would have trouble with some of the puzzles and older than that would feel it was too childish for them.