One of the many joys of exploring science in our homeschools is the regular opportunity for hands-on learning. When it comes to picking a good science kit that supports a particular theme, you’ll find there are many to choose from. Too many! In fact, if you’ve spent any time at all seeking out such resources, you’ve probably had a mix of both good experiences and some so frustrating they’ve bordered on comic. I’m still a bit scarred from a recent robot making kit I tried assembling with my kids. If you have experience with kits of this kind, you recognize that the quality of materials, instructions’ clarity, and scientific explanations provided can vary dramatically from kit to kit, and so many times the process proves frustrating to both the child and the parent.
Since these kits are not exactly free, I play it safe in my homeschool. For the times when we can’t make do with resources already in the house, I often pull out the Thames and Kosmos’ catalog and go shopping. Currently, there are more than 120 science and experiment kits available from this company. Each falls under one of thirteen categories: Chemistry, Physics, Alternative Energy andEnvironmental Science, Technology andElectronics, Biology, Earth Science andNatural History, Fun andFundamentals, Astronomy, Classic Science, Little Labs, Ignition Series, Sophisticated Science, and Construction Series. We have not hit home runs with 100-percent of the kits we’ve tried, but for the most part, I find Thames and Kosmos’ product line consistent in terms of ease of use, quality of materials, and most importantly, ability to engage my kids’ interest and keep learning fun.
I had a chance recently to spend time looking over Thames and Kosmos’ Hydropower Renewable Energy kit (ages 8+). The set features 12 experiments and building projects designed to illustrate methods of harnessing mechanical energy from water in order to perform physical work. Projects include making a water mill, building a sawmill, and generating enough energy from the waterwheel to light an LED.
A slim but informative booklet introduces readers to the concepts of hydropower. This material is a good launching point for discussions with children about earth’s most precious resource. They may be surprised to learn of the ways civilizations have harnessed energy from water throughout history. You may wish to further supplement the information found in this booklet, but it is also an adequate standalone resource.
The materials included are made of plastic and of the same average quality found in most kits of this kind today. They will hold up well enough for the purpose of each experiment and most likely for future experimentation as well. However, they are not toys and will not withstand rough handling. This kit is unlikely to hold up well enough to be used with younger siblings later on.
Instructions are provided with clear and easy-to-follow illustrations. With only minimal assistance, my children were able to use the guide themselves and felt enormous satisfaction from doing so. Perhaps now we can put the wretched robot debacle behind us!
Each experiment is placed into context using real world examples most students will find interesting. Children are able to understand the relevancy of each experiment they perform as well as the application of the scientific principles that this kit teaches.
If you are looking for a standalone kit to teach the basic concepts of hydropower or searching for an efficient, cost-effective way to make models that illustrate your own lesson plans, Thames and Kosmos has put together a solid resource to assist to you in your efforts. Enjoy!
REBECCA PICKENS is home/school/life’s Curriculum Junkie in the magazine and online. She writes for several publications and also blogs at www.steampoweredclassroom.com.