Science/mechanics kits for older kids/middle school
June 11, 2020 6:48 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone tried those monthly subscriptions to science experiment or engineering/mechanics kits for kids? Are there any kits you can get a single one and stand out as being worthwhile for long term use?

I'd really love to get some mechanics kits that have reusable parts with more metal and wood than plastic. Something that includes ways of measuring as you role different objects down a tube, displacement of water, etc etc, where you could do a lot of the classic mechanics experiments with materials closer to what they would have used then. I'm tired of science experiments that give you a few small pieces of plastic, a couple of experiments that are fun to do once- rather than sets that are adjustable and you could really explore relationships between objects, movement, time, weight etc. My daughter loved the Leonardo exhibit with all these cool wooden creations.

The Discovering stem series is probably the closest (and we love it), but I'm interested if there any sets that have more wooden/glass/metal/more durable materials that would feel more like historic science done in the renaissance/middle ages? (ok the history SCA nerd in me is craving getting as accurate as possible though I know this is less likely to find). And their quality/ease of use for those that tried them?

If I'm going to spend the money- I'd REALLY like to find something that has long term use in mind! I'm a little sketched out by the ones that send you a kit every month, but if people have had really good experiences with them, I'd like to hear about it!

If there are some tools I could have around to help duplicating cool experiments, for example balancing scales... sun dial?--- what objects would you put in your science for older kids set?
posted by xarnop to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've never tried any of those kits, so can't comment on the contents. What is probably most useful is the Lesson Plan the kit is built around. The structure and continuity of your home science fun is just as important. That's the long term goal you should have.

I have been a middle school science teacher for 20 years. For 6-9 graders, Physics study can be & should be very experiential. The main things you need in your kit are good measuring tools- balances, spring scales, rulers, timer, graduated cylinders etc.

At our schools we use very simple tools, most that you can get easily at a craft or hardware store- marbles, string, cups, wood blocks, pulleys, small wheels and axles, stuff like that. Marked known masses are also useful (like 1g, 10g, 1kg masses). It all must be durable cuz it is re-used year after year, about 6 times an experiment by 200 kids.

I googled "Home science experiments for middle school". there are a bazillion results for you to browse and select from.
posted by TDIpod at 9:53 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Just to add, you mentioned mechanics and accuracy so my reply was about that kind of science. Spring scales and graduated cylinders are on Amazon if that''s what you need...
A month of distance learning is just ending and we've also used online tools and simulations for mechanics - see The Physics Classroom. Another area involving "objects, movement, time" is Astronomy. Lots online about that too. Is your middle-school scientist interested in stellar mechanics? Are they interested in eclipses and other planets?
posted by TDIpod at 10:50 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

My mom gifted us the MEL science chemistry kit and it has been pretty cool. Though the younger kid (7) likes it more than the older (11). They give you a starter kit with flasks and stuff and then a kit every month with enough to do two experiments twice each. But it's more chemistry than mechanical. And it's more like "ooh, that's neat" than actually that much learning of chemistry, but it has been nice to have during quarantine.
posted by mgogol at 6:27 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

I was hoping for kits with the supplies because of my income situation I might asking this for a gift and I don't have any spending money at all (but am well supported). We're watching a lot of videos on mechanical physics right now and a lot of the expirments they do use equipment we'll never have, a lot of them look like you could as TDIpod mentioned with mire simple equipment. I see a lot of science kit with plastic parts that look like the few we have, meant to break or to be really specific to their set. That's why I was asking about the long termness of the parts for people who have bought some of these kits. I'd rather get a set of materials like TDIpod mentions that come together as a set. Checking out the links ya'll have shared, thank you!
posted by xarnop at 7:42 AM on June 12

We subscribe to both MEL Science and KiwiCo.

KiwiCo has several great lines including Tinker Crate (for 9+ year olds) - the projects are fun but yeah, the parts are mostly plastic, foam and cardboard. It's possible to play with the finished projects many more times but IMO they do not lend themselves to free-form exploring (in terms of building other things with them).
Some of these are quite durable, others less so. You can also buy individual sets from the store (rather than get a subscription) if you are in the US.

The Eureka Crate from KiwiCo is a line where you build real stuff, like a lamp or ukulele or a tray. It's great but the projects are harder and more time consuming - best for teens and up.

MEL Science is also kind of do this project, say wow, move on. There are explanations included in the sets but at least in our family it hasn't really led to a better understanding of chemistry. We did maybe six or seven sets containing two or three experiments each.

I would love to find what you are describing - good quality, natural materials, well-suited to free form experimenting - so I hope more people chime in.
posted by M. at 12:49 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

I really appreciate ya'll ideas and experiences thanks!
posted by xarnop at 2:31 PM on June 15

« Older Mompathy: will it change over time?   |   Zenni amber lenses: threat or menace? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments