Lynn: We’ve been having a beautiful summer here in Michigan but even the best summer vacations include some rainy days. Occupying active kids cooped up inside can be a challenge but here at Bookends, we have the answer. Put kids’ minds and hands to work and play with science experiments! The focus group loves science experiments so I’ve had some experience with various resources. Often the suggestions are long on gee-whiz, short on the science and require things I seldom have on hand. So I am very happy to report on the terrific Try This! 50 Experiments for the Mad Scientist In You (National Geographic, Aug. 2014).
The focus group and I recently tested this excellent book one rainy day and it is a winner with the boys and with me – both the grandmother me and the teacher me. Young divides the book into 7 sections including such broad topics as Bugs and Microbes, Things Water Does, Weird Physics and Reactions. Within each section are clear step-by-step experiments. Each step is paired with a photograph that is very helpful. Many experiment books do this sort of thing but Young has done much more here to make this book stand out for me. First, as she notes in her introduction, Young field-tested the experiments with 27 kids, ages 10 – 15 and includes quotes from them. Colored boxes provide information on how long the experiment will take, what is needed, what to expect and the science of what is happening. Each experiment is linked to science concepts and specific STEM standards. One of the elements that the boys and I especially liked is is called “Our Try” which reports the results of the kids who tested the experiments and Glitch which discusses what happened when the experiment DIDN’T work and why. They thought this was cool and wanted to compare our results with theirs. The teacher in me also liked the focused Questions that were provided.
As expected with a National Geographic book, this is bright and appealing with excellent photographs. The boys found it easy to use and understand and I loved the fact that the materials required were things I had around the house. We tried three experiments one rainy day: Ivory Soap Foam, Cat IQ and Dancing Oobleck. I was amazed at how long the boys spent with each experiment and how much they enjoyed each one. They spent an entire hour playing with oobleck and they spent at least three building, testing and refining the Cat IQ experiment. The book is full of sticky markers for experiments they want to try next. It was a terrific way to spend a day for all of us. This would be great for classrooms, school and public library collections and to recommend to parents and grandparents looking for fun ways to occupy kids. The science at the heart of these is a terrific bonus. I’ve included some shots of the focus group hard at play.