Monday, July 19, 2010

Not All Science Experiment Books for Children are Created Equal

It is not everyday I am disappointed by books of science experiments for children. But, there have been a few I would not recommend. I think today, we bumped into one of those in 365 Simple Science Experiments With Everyday Materials by E. Richard Churchhill, Louis V. Loeschnig, and Muriel Mandell.

It is not that all the experiments in it are useless, or that the writing is poor, or illustrations lacking. But, the experiments are not necessarily simple. In fact, many of them are downright fussy.

We tried, and failed at making their jumbo bubbles with straws, and a string...

...and burning a string in two with concentrated sunlight.

I'll admit it might have been our bubble solution, or too much wind, or just a general lack of bubble blowing abilities, when it came to the bubbles. But, the set up for the string trick, made it extremely difficult. The idea is to focus light, with a magnifying glass, on one point of a string, hanging inside of a jar. I found it difficult to keep the light beam steady. My seven year old found it impossible.

We did manage to succeed with getting a paper ring to move toward a burst of air, but I was not sure about the scientific exclamation offered by the authors. According to the book, blowing in front of the loop, creates an area of low pressure, that the loop will move toward. I'm pretty sure our loop only moved, when some of the burst of air hit the top of the loop, ever so slightly. But, the kids were impressed.

We also managed to get the hydrometer (a straw plugged with clay, and filled with about 1/2 inch of salt, floated in a liquid) to work, but it was not what I would call simple, and the results were not that impressive. There are a number of far more interesting ways to demonstrate density to children.

Oh, and we totally failed at making a flute out of a straw - I didn't even bother with a picture of that one.

All in all, as I said, it was disappointing. Some of the experiments we didn't try, I know from past experience, will work, but they are quite common, like the egg in the bottle trick, or cutting a piece of paper with one cut, making a loop you can walk through. But, even many of the ones we've done before, I would not put into a book called "Simple Science Experiments". However, true to the title, they do all call for everyday materials, so that part of the title is accurate.

There are just too many really excellent , well organized, science experiment books for children out there though, to waste time, and energy on one that is not a total hit. So, I'd pass on this one.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Debbie said...

Thank you for the review. That will be a book we will steer clear of, and look at some of the other interesting books you have used!

Ticia said...

Don't you hate when things you're looking forward to don't work out?

Kylie said...

I have both of those books and whilst we haven't used them alot, compared to our other science experiment books I'd have to agree with you.

Christy Killoran said...

Great review; very thorough. I hate it when books let me down.

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Interesting. I will definitely go back to your book recommendations when I am ready to do more "structured science" here.