Schoolhouse Discoveries offers unit study kits at two levels: Early Expedition kits for grades K to 4 and Advanced Adventures kits for grades 5 to 8. You can purchase kits individually, as 7-kit bundles with preselected kits (all for one level), or as customized bundles of three or more kits. New kits are created every six to eight weeks. If you purchase a 7-kit bundle, they will ship kits that have already been created specifically for that school year, then send the others individually as they become available. You can also buy a “sibling add-on,” an extra set of craft supplies and printed worksheets for each kit—the essential supplies needed for an additional child.
While kits focus primarily on a science or social studies topic, they also include activities that might involve geography, reading, language arts, math, arts and crafts, music, sensory play, cooking, and movement.
Every kit includes a book, a full-color instruction guide, printed activity pages, and craft supplies. In addition, QR codes throughout each guide link to the activity pages (in case you need more copies), videos, online activities, recipes, articles, and other resources, as well as to a chart of state standards covered by that unit study.
Early Expedition Kits
Early Expedition kits available at the time of this review are Five Senses, The Renaissance, Planets in Space, Ancient Egypt, Trip to the River, Rocks & Minerals, My Community, Inside the Human Body, Exploring Antarctica, Early American Settlers, and Discovering Gold.
The book included in each Early Expedition kit is an illustrated storybook or information book, and some of the craft supplies are for sensory activities.
The guide for each kit explains how to present the unit study, lists educational objectives under subject areas, and suggests additional books to dive deeper into the unit study topic. After that, it divides learning activities into eight subtopics, each taking up a two-page spread with detailed instructions.
For example, Planets in Space’s subtopics introduce the planets in the first spread. The other seven subtopics focus on the sun, the order of the planets, planet Earth, Mars, the gas giants, Uranus and Neptune, and scientists and their discoveries about our solar system.
Each two-page spread begins with a chart showing activities, subject areas addressed, supplies needed (including the book to be read), and printed activity pages to be used. Next, the guides direct parents step-by-step through the pages to be read from the book, text within the guide to be read aloud to children, and all the activities.
The activities should be done in order since they often build on one another. For instance, in the study of the planets, students create planet disks in the first group of activities, and those disks will be used several times within other learning activities.
The supplies vary greatly from kit to kit. For example, the kit for Ancient Egypt includes a set of oil pastels, two small containers of acrylic paint, a paintbrush, plastic jewels, twine, a set of Egyptian figures, and straws. The supplies for Planets in Space are a set of blank playing cards, an ink pad, blank planet disks, stickers for planets, plastic jewels and stars, Q-Tips, and an acrylic stamp block with a sheet of punch-out acrylic stamps (used interchangeably with the block). You can see how varied the activities are with such different items in each kit.
You still need to supply some items of your own—basic school and art supplies (like crayons and scissors) as well as special items such as dry black beans and recipe ingredients.
Younger children will certainly need assistance with some activities, while third- and fourth-graders might be able to do a lot on their own. The printed activity pages involve drawing, writing, coloring, cutting and pasting, and games.
The guides suggest doing two 2-page spreads per week to complete a kit in four weeks. You might prefer to do fewer learning activities in a session, perhaps spreading them out over more days per week or taking longer than four weeks.
Advanced Adventures kits available at the time of this review are Five Senses, The Renaissance, Planets in Space, Ancient Egypt, Trip to the River, Rocks & Minerals, My Community, Inside the Human Body, Exploring Antarctica, and Early American Settlers—one fewer than for the Early Expedition kits. Kits of the same title in both levels parallel one another for many topics but not all.
A chapter or information book is included in each Advanced Adventures, such as The Golden Goblet in Ancient Egypt and Eyewitness Planets in Planets & Space.
The guides are written directly to the student rather than parents, with the expectation that students will do much of the work on their own. Nevertheless, the units also involve discussion and parent-directed activities.
The half-page size guides for the Advanced Adventures kits have less content than those for Early Expeditions. They have fewer hands-on activities (ten or more rather than 20 or more) and require fewer pages to explain the activities. Also, these guides omit pages at the beginning with supplemental book recommendations and learning objectives. QR codes in the guides link to a recommended book list, a list of state standards covered, a shopping list for required resources, printable activity pages, and more, so you still have all that you need for the unit study. And, if you want older students to do more learning activities, one of the printed activity pages provides additional suggestions. The Advanced Adventures kits also have fewer craft supplies than Early Expedition kits, which means their prices are lower.
The number of lessons per kit varies as does the time required. Still, the kits are intended to be completed in about four weeks. The upper-level kits provide only some of the resources you need for the learning activities. For example, the Planet in Space kit includes a circular cookie cutter; a small tile; a pencil; a straw; steel wool; two magnifying lenses; a pipette; a brad; and a baggie with beads representing the planets, black beads, a few star beads, and fish line—all used to make a bracelet or bookmark. In addition, you need to provide cooking ingredients, clay (or tape or hot glue), a paper plate, vinegar, plastic cups, eight balls of various sizes, cardboard tubes, and isopropyl alcohol.
While many QR codes in Advanced Adventures guides link to videos, many links go to articles. Older students do more reading in lengthier books and online articles. They also write in response to prompts, questions, research findings, and specific writing assignments. The printed activity pages are used for some projects, and they might also be used for notetaking.
Schoolhouse Discoveries kits make unit studies easy by supplying most of what you need along with specific instructions. While parents need to budget time and obtain needed resources, the kits for both levels work mostly in an open-and-go fashion.