Home Science Tools® has been selling science lab resources and creating custom lab kits for a number of other publishers’ science programs for years. Now they have created their own hands-on science kits on topics related to biology, chemistry, physics, and earth and space. These kits include instructional information that makes it practical to use a series of them for your complete science curriculum. (Later in this review, I will address the limitations of using these courses for high school.)
There are three levels of kits designed for three different age groups: the Wonder level for kindergarten through second grade, the Accelerate level for grades three through seven, and the Launch level for grades eight through twelve. Each kit should take about a month to complete, so you would need nine kits for a full school year. To encourage their customers to either use the kits as a complete curriculum or use a number of kits as supplements, Home Science Tools offers discounts when you purchase a bundle of any three, six, or nine kits.
There are 46 kits as of April 2022. I’ll list just a few of the kits for each level to give you an idea of the topics covered.
- That’s a Sound Idea (physics, Wonder)
- From Brr to Burrow (biology, Wonder)
- Squishy Science (chemistry, Wonder)
- How’s It Growin’? (biology, Accelerate)
- Fizz, Foam, and Fire (chemistry, Accelerate)
- Wave Wisdom (physics, Accelerate)
- Good to Glow (chemistry, Launch)
- Project Projectile (physics, Launch)
- Ancient Organisms (biology, Launch)
- Newton’s Notions (physics, Launch)
I received three kits for review, one from each of the three levels. My remarks are based on these three kits, but they should apply to the other kits.
Each kit includes a teacher guide, a student workbook, and a Getting Started folder, along with almost everything you need for children to do a number of experiments. (Extra student workbooks are available, but only by calling the publisher. They are not listed on the website.) The content of the kits is generally a combination of easily obtained household items and specialized items. The inclusion of resources such as rubber bands, paper cups, and paper clips saves parents time and hassle, but it does make the kits cost more. The Getting Started folder lists the content of the kits followed by a very brief list of the few other items you will need to gather. For instance, the Fizz, Foam, Fire! kit requires you to supply only paper towels and water, and the Good to Glow kit requires only scissors and water.
The student workbooks have a mixture of information, experiments, hands-on activities for observations, charts to complete, and questions to answer. The experiments and activities have complete instructions (sometimes with illustrations). They are always accompanied by questions for students to answer that prompt them to think about what they have observed. Many activities have a series of questions that help students extend their understanding and application of what they have learned.
There are generally five activities per kit, but they are not simple since each activity often has multiple parts. The teacher guides have a suggested schedule on the inside front cover showing the time required for each part of an activity and the number of days needed for each activity. (I think the schedules allow more time than you will need in many instances.) Many of the kits have optional extension activities at the end of both the teacher and student books.
As you would expect, the activities for the Wonder level are less complex and require less analysis than those at the Accelerated and Launch levels. Based on the kits I received, the amount of information gradually increases in the student workbooks. Accelerate adds much more substantial information than Wonder, and the information in Launch starts to look very much like that in textbooks.
Both the Wonder and Accelerate levels provide age-appropriate science learning activities and information for a solid science education if you use a series of these kits as your science curriculum.
How Launch-Level Kits Fit In
While the Launch kits can be used for high school, there are only four or five kits each for biology, chemistry, and physics. That means that until there are enough kits for one subject (at least nine), you can put together only one introductory physical science course (covering chemistry and biology together) by using all of the chemistry and physics kits.
Theoretically, you could use the kits as supplements for high school. The biology kits for the Launch level are the most practical for this purpose since some of them cover topics that might be covered superficially or not at all by a biology textbook. They are:
- Chasing Equilibrium (covering equilibrium within the human body, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, the dissection of a sheep kidney, and more)
- Crack the Code (covering DNA, cell replication, and applications of knowledge about DNA in modern medicine)
- Flashy Feathers (changes in populations)
- Ancient Organisms (fossils)
- Game of Survival (natural selection and adaptation within a species)
The last two kits presuppose that the earth is at least millions of years old. Note that Science Unlocked courses try to take a neutral worldview other than in this instance. They don’t discuss the origin of the universe or of the human species, and they avoid implying that one species can change into another.
I don't recommend trying to use the chemistry and physics kits as supplements since their instructional information is likely to duplicate foundational information in whatever textbook you use as the mainstay of your course material. For example, Good to Glow has extensive instruction on the structure of atoms, the energy levels of electrons, and the elements of the periodic table. This section of the Good to Glow: Student Workbook will almost certainly duplicate information included in a chemistry or physical science textbook to some extent. Consequently, I’d recommend using the chemistry and physic kits for the Launch level (nine kits at this time) as a complete course for the eighth grade, and wait till there are more kits to put together complete courses for high school.
The Role of the Parent or Teacher
The teacher guides have a suggested schedule, notes about each experiment, and suggested responses to the questions. A parent or teacher needs to be involved at the Wonder level, and less so at the Accelerate and Launch levels. Most students will benefit from discussing some of their ideas and conclusions before writing them in their student workbook even if they are able to work through most of the lessons on their own.
The Science Unlocked kits do an excellent job of combining instruction with hands-on learning plus opportunities for students to document and write about what they have learned.