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101 Hands-on Science Experiments - review

Author Phil Parrotore brings us a great little science workbook targeted at grades 4-7. An enthusiastic teacher who has long advocated the benefits of hands-on learning for gifted students, Phil has complied 101 quick and easy lessons that can serve as introduction to all sorts of scientific exploration. The book is designed for classroom teachers, but can also be used at home by homeschool instructors and parents seeking to enrich their children's education. Adult supervision is required.

The book has a reproducible sheet on page six, so that children may record their observations. Page seven features an evaluation rubric, to track how well students do on such tasks as making inferences, demonstrating scientific method, and working cooperatively. The majority of the book is comprised of experiments, each one fitting neatly onto a single page. I like the fact that each stands alone quite nicely, yet an instructor could easily fill a whole class period with a cluster of these experiments. I can imagine an instructor allocating a single one of these to the beginning or end of each science lesson, and leaving the kids begging for more.

Similar types of experiments are grouped together, and there are nine of these sections altogether. Each has a fun descriptive title such as “In Living Color”, Creepy Crawlers”, or “The Pressure is On”. “Fire in the Hole” has over a dozen experiments which require the use of flame. A sample experiment from Fire in the Hole is out lined here:

You Light Up My Life

Purpose:
To demonstrate the combustibility of vapors.

Curriculum:
Vaporization

Requirements:
time: 1 minute difficulty level: 2

Materials:
candle with large wick
wooden safety matches

Directions:
1.Light the candle in a safe place and allow it to burn for a few seconds.
2.Light another match and blow out the candle.
3.Place the lit match over the candle's wick into the white smoke. Do not touch the wick with the flame.
4.You may demonstrate this several times to ensure that all students can see that the candle lights without touching the match to the wick.

Safety note: Wear safety goggles and be cautious with the lit flame.

Explanation: The candle will relight without the match touching the wick. After the flame is blown out, a vapor, or gas, is produced as evident by the smoke. This vapor comes from a chemical in the wax called stearin. Stearin stays hot enough after the flame is blown out that it continues to evaporate into the air and produce a vapor. Because this vapor is combustible, it can easily relight.

All experiments are ranked in difficulty from one to four. It's very handy to have everything spelled out ahead of time for the instructor, such as how much time it will take and what materials are required.
Explanations are short and sweet, but get the point across. Most of these activities take less than fifteen minutes to perform, though a few require overnight cooling. There's a great deal of variety in concepts
here, with examples in botany, solar energy, and entomology, as well as Newton's third law of motion.
My one criticism is that these quick and easy projects are too basic for kids at the older end of the age range specified, especially if the kids are gifted. I'd recommend it more for gifted kids in kindergarten to grade five.


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