Last year Connor’s kindergarten class had library day every Wednesday; they could choose two books to take home for the week and the following week could either bring those back and exchange them for two new ones or keep the books for another week. I think 98% of the books he brought home were science books, and that’s not even an exaggeration. I think we saw a handful of story books or books with TV characters (and for a kid who loves TV that’s remarkable). Everything else was science.
He had books on the planets and books on bugs; dinosaurs made frequent appearances as did books about animals. He just really, really likes science and, I’ve got to admit, I was surprised.
I took biology through grade 11, I think. I know I took Physics 11 and barely passed. Like, barely. I think my teacher may have passed me out of pity, in fact (either that or because she didn’t want to have to deal with me again the next year). The experiment we did with the wave tank still brings back that old feeling of absolute confusion. And I never did understand chemistry.
I think it’s safe to say Connor didn’t get his science gene from me (or his art gene or his LEGO gene or, oh god, I hope he can at least write so there’s some evidence beyond his eyes that I’m his mother).
Despite my lack of knack for science and my perfectly understandable dislike of bugs, I have tried to nurture his interest in science. (Did you know there are 10,000,000,000,000,000 ants in the world? According to his National Geographic bug book, anyway.) When we got a chance to try out Groovy Lab in a Box, I said yes, figuring Connor would love it.
One thing about their approach to science for kids – this is more than just kitschy science experiments. They use a STEM approach (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and with the subscription service kids get a new box every month with a fun, hands-on projects and an engineering design challenge, all focused on that month’s STEM topic. This line from their material really stuck out for me:
Our core belief is that we want to bring this generation back to the NASA Apollo era when children wanted to be scientists and engineers and science was at the forefront of the media.
When we got our box, it came with supplies for several different experiments, an observation notebook, and instructions (thank god). We started with the sun print paper experiment, which was the perfect level of complication to start with (i.e. not very). This one involves using light-sensitive paper to make pictures and designs using only sunlight and water.
We placed the black cardstock on the bottom and the sun paper on top, and both went into a plastic bag (also supplied). Connor chose a simple shape to start with because he wanted to see how it turned into a picture, so we placed that on top of the bag and put it all in the sun.
After a few minutes, the blue paper turned really light, so we took it inside and rinsed it.
So then he got really serious and tried a few more times with different shapes and designs.
That one was a hit, but when Connor saw there was an experiment that involved a battery he almost lost his mind. (Okay, that part might have been a slight exaggeration, but he was very excited.)
This one involved putting together a conductivity sensor to determine the electrical conductivity of salt water. To start, we hooked up the battery to a buzzer and put it in a cup of water. Nothing happened. (For the record, that result matched my hypothesis.) Then we added a salt packet and tried again.
At this point we weren’t really sure whether anything happened or if we had even done it correctly. The next step was to add more salt, so we did that and got a clear buzz.
My response was, “Yay!” And then my husband piped up from the kitchen. “Did it conduct electricity when there was no salt in the water? What about when you added salt? What did you notice?”
Damn husband. Fine, be all science-teacher-y. At least one of us was watching to see if the child electrocuted himself. (I don’t actually know if that’s a possibility, but that’s totally not the point.)
Despite my lack of science knowledge (I think I’m going to contact my grade 8 chemistry teacher and ask for my parents’ money back) we had fun playing scientist, and we still have a few more experiments to do (which is good, because little brothers like this too).
I’d definitely recommend this for kids who are interested in science. I’d just suggest a cheat sheet for parents who might need a little help correctly identifying the results.
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