Monday, January 24, 2011

Smithsonian Rock And Gem Dig versus The Young Science Club's Mineral Kit



The children spent most of the morning extracting 8, polished, stones from the chalky brick of the Smithsonian Rock and Gem Dig kit, they received for Christmas.

I can't actually tell you if the stones they unearthed are rocks, minerals, or gemstones, at least not with any confidence. Because, despite a beautiful, color poster, and a handful of scientific looking tools, such as a scratch plate, magnifying glass, and safety goggles, in addition to the excavation tools of a hammer, chisel, and brush, this kit, like the last Smithsonian science set we reviewed, is more toy than science tool.

That being said, it is a very good toy, and the children enjoyed it very much. In fact, they've already asked if we can get another one.


We've tried similar dino digs, and treasure hunt sets, that they've lost interest in after a few minutes of chiseling. But, in this case, the brick was just soft enough, and the "jewels" just pretty enough, to keep them engaged for over two hours of digging.

I would like to be able to identify the stones included, but even the enclosed poster consoles, that professional mineralogists, with proper equipment, and chemical tests, sometimes have difficulty identifying rock samples, so not to lose heart.

This is very different from the experience we had in the past with a mineral kit from The Young Scientists Club (click here, for our previous review of the club). That kit arrived with 5 mineral samples, labeled for the parent's use.



After numbering them, to keep them straight, the parent then turns them over to the children to test - streak, hardness, and content using magnets, and acids (vinegar, mainly). Everything needed was provided with the kit, except for the vinegar, a couple of grains of salt, a small bowl, a magnifying glass (which had come in a previous kit), paper, and a ruler.

The children recorded their results from each test, and used their findings to determine which mineral was which. We used our kit several years ago, but I saved the pieces, and directions, which I pulled out today, to supplement, and complete the Smithsonian kit.

So, if you're looking for a nice, boredom buster for your children, and don't mind a little dust (maybe a lot of dust), the Smithsonian Rock and Gem Dig is terrific. You'll need to provide your own eye protection. The safety glasses included are for play purposes only, but everything else, for a fun couple of hours is included.

Do be aware though, that while the wooden mallet pictured on the box is actual size...

...the gems are not. We were prepared for this fact ahead, after reading other parent reviews, and so the children were not disappointed, and were actually quite thrilled with the little stones.



But, if you're looking for an actual science kit, to teach your children about mineralogy, my suggestion is the to check out The Young Science Club. When we used the kits, it was through a mail order subscription, where a new kit came every few weeks. But, now I see the kits are also available through Amazon (listed for ages 5-12), in sets of three.

They aren't paying me for my recommendation, they simply earned it with a good product.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

11 comments:

Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog said...

Oooo.. I think Emily would really enjoy the Young Science Club kits! Fun!!

lovemyabbie@gmail.com said...

I'm going to have to check out the Young Science Kits, they look great. We had a similar dino kit and my daughter really had a fun time. I set it aside and intend to put it in some plaster of paris or something so she can dig again. We also did something similar this summer with ice & trinkets. It was fun watching her decide where she could melt the ice quicer or break it better. I'll bet we froze it every couple days for almost a month.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

lovemyabbie - Terrific idea! We might try that this summer.

Raising a Happy Child said...

I was looking at the Young Science Kits the other day, but I guess we still have a few years to go. However, it's good to know that you liked them. What do you think is the best age for them?

Phyllis said...

We got a Smithsonian model engine kit for Christmas and it came with parts missing and a sheet in it that told you what to do if parts were missing which made me think it wasn't unusual. I was not impressed.

Fairion said...

Thanks for the recommendations. We will look into the young scientist club for our next round of science classes.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Raising A Happy Child - I used them with the T when he was about 5, and G at 3 kind of followed along. If I remember right, the lower numbered sets are for younger children, and they progress in age, as they go up. The reading level is for beginners, but there are some writing, and attention span issues to consider, too.

Christy said...

Great review! Thanks for the information. I think all three of my kids would enjoy this.

Elise said...

The fact that your children enjoyed using this for two hours is a plus.

Interesting that the mallet was featured as the actual size, but those big sparkly "gems" were not.

Debbie said...

I will have to look into some of these kits. I have a feeling Selena and I would have a blast with them.

Sara McGrath said...

I really like the Young Scientist Kits, too. My 8-yr-old recently did the Dig Real Fossils one and got a real fossil out of the deal.