Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review: Activity Bags

After four years of homeschooling, I've come to accept the fact that there's nothing in the world I can do to make penmanship practice fun for my Schnickelfritz.  We just have to trudge through it knowing there are better things to look forward to--like science.  Here's a subject that can really bring a "wow factor" to our school days--it can be hands on, colorful, even explosive (within reason). Unfortunately,  I don't always have the time to plan and organize these experiments.  How great that a company like Activity Bags has done most of the upfront work for me.  We recently downloaded three volumes of Science Experiments in a Bag to review.

GRADES:   K through 8
FOCUS:  Biology, Nature & General Science
25 Experiments
eBook 1 webpage
It may be semantics, but I would call some of these activities, rather than experiments.  There is no hypothesis to prove or disprove when making geometric shapes with marshmallows and toothpicks.  Some activities will require days or weeks (growing seeds, fungus, watching garbage decompose underground).  Others can be done in one session (crushing cans, skewering a balloon without popping it).   You'll probably have most of the supplies and materials in your home already, but anything you don't have can be found at Walmart.

GRADES:  K through 8
FOCUS:  Chemistry, Human Body & General Science
25 Experiments
ebook 2 webpage
All of the experiments can be done in one session.  The human body activities focus on the five senses.  The chemistry activities cover mixing vinegar and baking soda, cleaning copper pennies, and making a cabbage juice litmus test.  The general science activities could really be classified as physics:  siphons, imbalanced forces creating motion, the flow of electrons, and static electricity.
Again, there are no exotic materials to procure.

GRADES:  K through 8
FOCUS:  Chemistry
25 Experiments
eBook 3 webpage
Anytime you can drop Mentos in a two-liter of soda and log it as science hours, you've got a hit on your hands.  Other activities are turning pennies green, making glue and the old standby--a baking soda and vinegar volcano.  On that note, all these books include a chart showing which experiments are best done outside.

So why is it called Science in a Bag?  Because the non-perishable supplies can be assembled ahead of time in a plastic bag.  There a tips on organizing an experiment swap--each family preparing say, 10 bags of one experiment and then trading bags with nine other families.   The supply list for each experiment is listed in quantities for 1,10,15 or 20 bags.  There are also printable experiment logs to record observations, answer supplied questions, and take general notes. 

Schnickelfritz is currently studying Astronomy and we didn't find any experiments to tie in with that subject.  Instead we chose to keep it light--trying out the activities that we thought would give us a real "bang" as we wrapped up our school day.  I didn't require him to fill out the log sheets--we were just reinforcing the fact the science can be fun.  As such, these books might be good for grandparents or someone seeking to be the coolest babysitter on the block.

Speaking of "bang"  here's a few pictures of the can crusher experiment from book one.  We we rinsed out an empty can and let it dry overnight.  Then we poured in a tablespoon of water to cover the bottom and placed the can on the stove till it boiled one minute.  Then, using tongs, we plunged the can into a pot of very cold water.  There was a loud POP and the sides of the can caved in. 

We learned it was important to wait until you heard the boiling bubbles in the can before starting the timer.  Our first try we used the observation of steam as our key and the result was less intense.

Each eBook sells for $15 on the Activity Bags website.  You can buy volumes 1 and 2 as a bundle for $27.  Other bags are available with reading games, math games and travel activities.

I  received a free downloads of the 3 Science Experiments in a Bag volumes through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review now was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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