Monday, November 5, 2012

K-8 Science labs (In bags?) and a Travel Binder!

A few years ago I participated in a "Preschool Activities in a Bag" swap with about 20 other homeschooling families. Does that sound familiar? Have you heard of Activity Bags ?

Let me tell you a little bit about the swap process. The basic gist is this: A main coordinator sent out instructions for each participant to put together 20 copies of the same activity, each in a gallon zip-loc bag. The bags were then sent to the coordinator who assembled them into boxes with 20 different activities for each person and sent them back out.When the box came back, there were many activities to help keep my preschooler busy while his siblings worked on their school-work with me. Sometimes they became a ready-to-go activity to pull out and use with him on a regular basis, and a few were good options to bring with us in the car when heading out to visit his grandfather.

Well, the ladies of Activity Bags have moved beyond the preschool crowd, and have some new offerings for children aged K-8th grade. The TOS Review Crew received a variety of products to review. I was sent the all 3 Science Experiments in a Bag ebooks (You can click on each image to be brought to their product page) as well as the  Travel Activities in a Binder ebook.

Now there are a couple of ways to approach these activities. One is to organize a swap with local families (saves on shipping) OR with cyber-friends. The other is just to put the activities together on your own.

Benefits to the Swap~ 
  • ONE shopping trip, with a short list!  
  • You pull together a large quantity of the same items for ONE project (It's kind of the same concept as "Freezer cooking" ~ cheaper to buy "in bulk"... ;)  )
  • Simpler to produce one activity "Assembly Line" style.
  • Fun to get mail
  • Sense of "community"
  • A bunch of activities all prepped and ready to go, with minimal labor (Because of the assembly -line nature of the swap)
  • Mostly ready for kids to "Grab and Go"
Benefits to putting the activities together on your own~ 
  • If space is an issue, it is useful to just use these as "Resource" books, and do each activity as they fit into your studies~ Pick and choose
  • No deadline for a swap
  • No postage
Cons (In comparison to the Swap)
  • No deadline for a swap ;) (deadlines help things get done!)
  • No set "All ready" to go bags, unless you choose to spend a day putting everything together yourself (Which is something I would do if I had more space...)
  • More items to purchase and pull together~ takes more time
  • Might be more costly when not purchasing in larger quantities
You might have guessed how we are approaching the Science Activities in a Bag at this point in time~ more as a resource to use with my Middlest's Science Activities, with Littlest tagging along, as usual (And since these are intended for ages K-8th grade, this is perfect!). The main reason is that I currently don't have a space for a bunch of pre-made science experiments in bags in a box. However, as soon as I can carve out a spot (Because, honestly, they don't take up THAT much space!), I will be assembling a few of these puppies, and letting Middlest take control of which labs he's doing for each lesson, rather than just pulling them up one at a time.

On with my method of the moment~ I printed up the page for each book that categorizes the experiments (Indoor/Outdoor, Biology, General Science, or Chemistry in Book 1,  Indoor/Outdoor, Chemistry, Human Body, General Science in Book 2, and Indoor/Best Outside for Book 3 which is all Chemstry) as well as the "Experiments at a Glance" for each book. I printed these "4 to a page" so that I pretty much have just one sheet/book. This makes it easy for me to find an appropriate experiment for my son's Chemistry lessons this year.

We're coordinating these with the Creek Edge Press science cards that the Crew reviewed last fall (I purchased Chemistry for this year, so that Middlest and Eldest would be studying the same branch of science in 2013... :) ), which works out well. The cards generally include instructions to "do a lab" that relates to the topic, but the labs aren't prepared or even really suggested~ it's up to the student (or teacher) to find the labs. These experiments are... labs! :) They are fun, and they are easily done with household items.

Some of the experiments are tried and true, you'll be familiar with them (volcano, anyone?), and others are less common (I had never thought of making a garbage viewer so that the composting process is visible, but that one is right up my 5 year old's alley~ however, I'm waiting for spring to try that one!). 

Which reminds me~ The beauty of a swap (or having a dedicated science box with the bags prepared) with the Science Experiments in a Bag is that the majority of the materials required will already be pulled together for you~ so there is no excuse for not getting that science done! :D

I have an idea for the experiments that we don't use in our Chemistry study this year~ I think they would make a great "Idea box" for summer activities~ pull the bags together, and have a ready-to-go activity for the summer (That indoor/outdoor chart is very helpful here as well). Might make a pretty awesome present as well, presented in a nice sturdy plastic box for the science-loving child in your life!

Now for the other ebook that I was sent, Travel Activities in a Binder ebook.
This book is a little different in that the activities are all printed pages to be put in sheet protectors, and then in a 1 inch binder with a pencil pouch and dry-erase markers.  Activities are included that all ages can play together: From Tic-Tac-Toe to Connect-the-Dots and Hangman (We're changing ours to a "Ladybug" game, as my children object to Hangman....), Scavenger Hunts and "Mad-Libs" style pages, Geography-type games, "Travel Bingo" games, a variety of mazes (For a variety of abililities) and more.

I love doing this one on my own because each child can have a personalized binder of their own, with pages that are appropriate for their ages and interests. When we take long car trips my kids have always enjoyed participating in  creative travel games, but we're always rummaging for paper for whatever activity they choose to do, not to mention pencils and pens. I love the fact that with Travel Activities In A Binder, everything is reusable (For instance, I can't tell you how many "Dot game boards" or Tic-Tac-Toe boards I've drawn by hand....and then thrown away when the game was finished... How nice to have ONE in each book... pre-made and REUSABLE!!!)

We haven't actually USED them in the car as of yet, because we haven't been on any trips in the past few weeks (or even reasonably long car rides...), but I anticipate that this will help to keep those back-of-seat car pockets a little more organized (With pencil pouches in the notebooks.... pens and pencils shouldn't drift to the bottom of the seat pocket, and random sheets of paper won't be getting crunched), as well as providing some non-electronic, good old-fashioned fun and entertainment for our next road trip! If that road trip happens to be to visit family without younger kids, the binders may go into the house to help occupy the littlest, at any rate, and/or help him to engage with his older relatives!

I love that Travel Activities in a Binder is a more convenient and less wasteful version of what we were already doing a little bit, with more variety added in.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Blessings~
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Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Review Crew Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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