The Big Bag of Science gets 5 stars!
My teaching philosophy when it comes to science is to make topics as hands-on and engaging as possible. When my kids were younger I invested in TONS of science kits and have always kept a closet stocked with hundreds of different science related items (as well as a bookshelf stuffed full of colorful books on all types of science topics).
I still endeavor to make science something like the dessert of our day. Yes, science is harder now, but after working years on building a strong foundation, Otter finds many of the topics we are studying for high school more like an in depth review of things he’s covered years before. He loves science and I feel like my approach was a big part of kindling that.
Now that I’m helping my friend teach her daughter some homeschool subjects, I get to play some more and watch a new set of eyes light up during “science time”.
Today, Rabbit got to try out the Big Bag Of Science kit. She’s learning about animals from her main science program, but we are breaking things up with kits and extras, as I always did for Otter and my other kids.
The Big Bag of Science is actually a pretty decent sized plastic bag with a woven handle and zipper top filled with most of the supplies you need to do around 70 science activities (some of which are dependent on others, so in reality they are stretching it quite a bit to say it has 70 things to do).
Unpacking the science kit
The first thing we did was unpack the bag. Everything was laid out neatly in zip-loc style plastic pouches and a plastic case with indentations to keep things from shifting around. Once it was unpacked it looked like this:
Here’s the “official” photograph of the contents, which is quite a bit nicer than the picture I took:
The nice big sheet of color changing paper as shown in the official picture is, in reality, just little yellow strips in our kit.
Some of the items you get in the kit are:
- Color changing strips
- Gravity Goo Powder (Linear Polyacrylamide)
- Insta-Snow Power (Sodium Polyacrylate)
- Water Gel (Poly homopolymer or sodium salt of polyacrylic acid)
- Quicksand Powder (cornstarch)
- Super-absorbent crystals (Sodium Polyacrylamide)
- Fizzing color tablets
- Worm Goo Activator (Calcium Chloride)
- P.T.C. paper (Phenylthiourea-Phenylthiocarbamide)
- UV beads
- Garbled marbles (Cross-linked polyacrylamide Polymer gel)
- Iron filings
- Worm goo (Sodium Alginate)
- Assorted equipment like “baby soda bottles”, plastic test tubes, geyser tube, magnet, magnifying glass, plastic wells, petri dish, plastic cups, balloon, metal nut, twister tube, cardboard color wheel, etc.
- A 30 page instruction guide (feels like it’s printed on something similar to heavy newspaper print and is all text with no pictures) with various activities and experiments outlined step-by-step as well as “How does it work?” information that explains the “why” behind the science
Most of the items are of pretty decent quality. The test tubes and test tube holders are TOUGH and could probably be dropped on the floor multiple times. A few things are a little chintzy, like the cheap plastic pipette, but everything is certainly serviceable. Overall, I think the kit is worth the money. I don’t think you could buy all of the items individually for less (plus it would be a huge hassle rounding it all up, if you tried).
The included items do NOT have enough materials though to do some of the cooler experiments more than once. However, if your budding scientist turns out to really want to do something again, most of the experiments can be purchased in single kits that have enough materials for multiple uses via the Steve Spangler Science website.
You’ll need some additional materials from around the house
The instruction manual gives you a list of materials you will need to obtain yourself like water, paper towels, red cabbage, vinegar, soda pop, D battery and so on. Most of the items are things you would normally have laying around the house with maybe a few exceptions like a 1/2 cup of potting soil and fast growing seeds (radish or similar), Mentos candies, a bottle of diet soda, iron fortified cereal (like Total), and sunscreen.
Little kids won’t be able to do the experiments on their own, but I think the kit would be appropriate for ages 6-12. The package says it’s recommended for ages 8-9 with adult supervision. Having said that though, Otter, my 9th grader, has repeatedly expressed how he wants to use the kit himself and how it looks like so much fun. I guess you are never too old to play with science!
Some kids may need a bit of supervision and help
Younger kids will need a lot of help, especially with reading through the activity steps, and older kids might need a bit of assistance or instruction, especially if you want to expand on the activities and teach additional concepts or explain the “whys” behind the experiments in greater detail. I would feel comfortable turning an 8 year old loose with it, IF I could trust said 8 year old to read through the instructions and not just start experimenting willy-nilly. At the very least, make sure young scientists are in an area where it’s O.K. to make a big mess and keep things away from little ones who might put things in their mouths, as there are a lot of chemical powders and things like iron filings.
A variety of science topics are covered
The Big Bag Of Science kit covers a variety of things like physical science, chemistry and biology with even a small smattering of earth science and others. The kit is what I’d call mostly science PLAY (unless you add to it, as I’ve done), so you couldn’t use this as a curriculum. However, you could use it as a spring-board for introducing various science concepts and as something to pull out to add a bit of fun during your school week.
Big Bag Of Science in Action
Today we tried out the first 3 activities. Some of the activities rely on materials created in a previous activity, so you’ll want to skim ahead in the instructions to see if you should combine some of the activities in one session, as we did today.
Today’s activities / experiments:
Activity 1: Fizzing colors – Rabbit learned what a solution is, what it means for something to dissolve, a little bit about chemical reactions, gases, carbon dioxide and experiment safety. We added in information about exhaling carbon dioxide and how plants give off oxygen too.
Activity 2: Cross-eyed Colors: Rabbit held up the capped tubes with the colored water to the light, crossed them and saw that you can make new colors. Um, yeah, not much of an activity. See what I was saying about “stretching it” to say there are 70 activities in the kit?!
Activity 3: Color Chemistry: Now Rabbit used the colored water from the tubes to mix new colors in some shallow plastic wells. She learned about primary colors, secondary colors & tertiary colors. I also added in some additional information and activities so she learned how light is made up of colors, how our eyes perceive colors, how and why scientists record their experiments and so on.
Learning to record results:
After Rabbit mixed colors, we looked at a prism (not included in the kit) to see how light is composed of different colors and made rainbows all over my craft room:
A rainbow on the wall:
Rabbit spent over an hour experimenting and learning and we covered quite a few different science concepts just from 3 simple, yet fun activities!
Final Thoughts about this fun science kit:
The Big Bag Of Science gets 5 stars. It has plenty of activities to spark student interest and nourish a love for science that will hopefully continue through high school and beyond! This type of kit is perfect for helping to set that kind of permanent foundation – one where kids think science is FUN and not a chore. It’s also makes a great supplement or concept starter and a parent who is well-versed in science topics will have no trouble using it as a springboard for all sorts of teaching. It’s also something that will keep kids busy for hours over the life of the kit, even if parents are totally hands-off.
- You get a lot of different materials for a pretty decent price (considering how much it would cost to buy the items individually) in a fairly impressive package.
- It will probably appeal to a multitude of ages due to the fun factor.
- There are lots of gooey, messy experiments that will appeal to kids.
- Kids who’ve been doing a lot of science over the years (like Otter) probably won’t learn much from the kit, even though they are likely to have fun.
- The kit exaggerates how many experiments there are by adding in activities like “Put flowers in water in one of the test tubes” and tries to call that life science.
- Many of the more fun experiments don’t have enough materials to do them repeatedly and the instructions don’t tell you when you need to save items from one experiment to use in another (so you have to skim ahead).
All-in-all, I think this is a worthwhile kit, especially to brighten up a dull day in your homeschool or to help spark an avid interest in science that gets you out of a textbook and over to the table to learn and have fun!