From biology to paleontology, ecology to geology, and some anatomy, chemistry, and oceanography thrown in for more fun, our recommendations for award-winning science products offer the tools and ideas to get young scientists started - no matter what their "ology" of interest.
Sid is a boy who loves his family, his preschool, and, of course, science. Each episode follows the same pattern: a science question is raised with Sid's family at breakfast, which he then asks his friends about before they go inside to school ("The Sid Survey" with answers arranged in a chart). Teacher Susie helps the kids discover the answer in "the super fab lab" (which cuts away to live-action kids and teachers doing the same experiment), followed by "Singing with Susie." The four episodes on this disc are "The Sticker Chart" (the importance of organizing data), "The Rolie Polie," (using magnifying glasses), "Enough with the Seashells"(how to use an estimation jar), and "The Whale Episode," (using non-standard measurement). This DVD includes a separate disc of "Singing with Susie" songs.
This is an excellent introduction to science and experimentation for children aged three to five. The kit features characters and concepts from the popular PBS Kids show, Sid the Science Kid. The kit includes a 24-page instruction manual and journal, thermometer, rain gauge, color-changing UV beads, and two wrist bands. The instruction manual poses questions, explains simple, but engaging experiments, and allows children to draw their observations in their own journal- just like the characters in the show. The experiments in this particular kit revolve around weather: Why Does It Rain, What Does the Sun Do (two experiments), How Do I Know How to Dress, What Happens if I Don't Wear Sunblock, What is Wind, and a bonus experiment, Is it Hard to Be a Weatherman? Kids will learn to follow instructions, sequence, measure, count, write, and observe.
Scholastic, $16.99 (Hard Cover)
Children often have an innate interest in the natural world, but sometimes science books can be a bit dry and lessen rather than reinforce the magnificence of our planet. Living Sunlight is a lovely fusion of science and poetic language, a wonderful collaboration between an author-illustrator (Molly Bang) and an MIT professor (Penny Chisholm) that sacrifices neither accuracy nor style. The book focuses on photosynthesis and its critical role in sustaining all life, but it uses an elegant first person point of view from the sun's perspective.
With a number of children's CDs already under its belt, including the popular Here Come the ABCs and Here Come the 123s, They Might Be Giants continues to educate and entertain on Here Comes Science. Not only do they sing about photosynthesis, the nervous system, and scientific hypotheses; they sound really good while doing so. With a drving rock 'n' roll feel to all 19 of the album's original science-themed songs, we caution that Here Comes Science may cause intense dancing as well as introductory knowledge of paleontology, cells, solid, liquids, and gases. A terrific way to jumpstart an early elementary school science class, or put a new twist on a road trip sing-along.
This is a witty and wonderful album devoted to the intricate workings of the brain, delivered with irresistible pop rhythms and intelligent thought, courtesy of singer-songwriter Roger Day. With deft lyrics, Day has fun with "Monkey Brains," "Brain Food" and the dreaded "Brain Freeze." He envisions "Sara Bellum" as a smart, problem-solving girl who might give Einstein a run for his money. In "The Brain Train," the nervous system "puts the wheels in motion" as a thought fast tracks through the brain to become action. Stations along the way include the left and right frontal lobes, the corpus callosum, deep basal ganglia, cerebellum, spinal cord and muscles of the hands. Now that's using your noodle.
Ask is an arts and science magazine for young readers. The content is interesting and educational, and it's loaded with art, photography plus plenty of white space to keep its readers visually engaged. A front section named Scoops is a two-page delight of short trivia pieces. We learned about a carnivorous plant that eats bugs in less than a millisecond, a beach hotel made from recycled trash, and a worm that lives two miles underground. Other regular features include a letters and a contest section, two highly entertaining comic strips, and Jimmy the Bug, who answers questions sent in by readers. Each issue has a theme such as stars, or robots, and six or seven related articles. Articles are written in age-appropriate language, but they are not dumbed down.
"Catch the Science Bug" is like a changeable online science book. Based on the Rhode Island PBS television show of the same name, the website offers a selection of "science files" on (so far) eight different topics the show has covered. Each file includes a video clip, photos, some background information, several experiments to try at home, and occasional extras, like trivia questions and quizzes. In addition to the science files, the children can read about the scientists associated with the program, try experiments from the "Investigators Journal", and find out more about the TV program and associated events. The experiments are at an elementary school level and are generally easy to perform with household items.
Scabs and Guts is a board game that teaches kids facts about their body in an entertaining manner. There are three categories: Scrapes and Scabs which asks questions that promote positive health, Blood and Guts which asks questions that reveal "disgusting" facts about our bodies, and Blubber or Buff which asks questions about building muscles and living healthy. There are also wild cards that have the player engage in an activity. The questions are addictive. As a parent, I found the facts fascinating and sometimes gross, perfect for keeping the attention of school age children. Testers had fun while learning new facts about their bodies and/or healthy living.
The Tornado Maker is a very entertaining science activity for school age children. Once the tornado maker is filled with water and turned on, you can manipulate what level tornado you want to make, ranging from EF1-EF5. It comes with objects for you to put in the water so that you can see what happens to objects in a real tornado. The manual is very thorough and may be a little advanced for younger children. However, it is perfect for the school age child and has a nice balance of text and pictures. It provides a wealth of information on tornados and would be perfect for a child who wants to do a paper or project on tornados. This activity was a huge hit with our testers, and every child in the neighborhood, ranging from ages five through eleven, came over to play with this. The children were fascinated by the ability to manipulate how fast or slow the water moved (moving the "on" button from an EF1 to an EF5). This is a fun and affordable activity that is also educational. It would be perfect in an elementary school classroom.
DK Publishing, $16.99 (Hard Cover)
This is a lavishly illustrated, easy-to-read chronicle of the origin of the species. Released to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publishing of The Origin of Species, Evolution Revolution is a fascinating study of the explorer and scientist's life, as well as a history of his theory of evolution. This sturdy, well-bound book is one a child can pick up again and again, to learn more about one of the most important explorers of our time, as well the controversy surrounding his revolutionary ideas. Additionally, this is a primer on DNA, survival of the fittest, and human evolution, providing a vast amount of scientific material buried within its engaging text, it answers with clarity and insight questions many young scholars will pose. Evolution Revolution can be read aloud to 6-7 year olds; and can be read alone by children 8 and older.
Keva Contraptions' Trebuchet kit is a topnotch build-your-own craft kit that doubles as a science lesson. Children receive a stack of raw wood planks, wood scale boards, wood glue, string, balls, and a sling pouch. The very clear and graphically engaging instructions guide them as they assemble these materials into a complex, functional, mechanical trebuchet. Once completed, the toy stands over a foot tall. It is an impressive and sturdy product, not just a "throw-away" craft. Building the toy will be more fun than playing with it, for children who are interested in engineering. As such, if you are looking for interesting building kits to engage children with engineering aspirations, this one is a great buy.
DK Publishing, $24.99 (Hard Cover)
This book doesn't make human anatomy scary. Instead, this is a fascinating study of the inner human body. All that's borrowed from Frankenstein besides the book's title is its mission to clarify with short to-the-point text and plenty of illustrations what's needed to "make a person." But the "make a person" here is science, not fiction. A humorous touch adds a playfulness that'll keep kids reading. But most impressive, this glossy, hard-page book is straight-forward Anatomy 101.
You do not need complicated instruments or scientific labs if you want to discover the secrets of nature and your immediate surroundings. If you have WebCam Laboratory, all you need is an intelligent and curious observer - that is you - and a simple webcam. WebCam Laboratory allows you to observe things and phenomena that have always been there around you, but that you haven't had the chance to recognize.
The Big Bag of Science is an extensive kit containing the supplies for over seventy science activities in a wide range of interest areas. From basic color mixing and the classic vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano to green slime, artificial snow, and exploding Mentos and diet soda, the kit runs the gamut of projects every kid wants to try. Most projects can be performed independent of adult supervision. The science is seldom deep, and many of the activities are far from being experimental, being instead simple fun activities. For those interested in learning more science, background explanations are provided in the instruction book.
The Kitchen Science kit by 4M Industrial Development Limited includes materials for conducting a variety of hands-on experiments. Most of the experiments will be quite familiar to parents: the erupting volcano, invisible ink and the fruit battery. But children can also become "Kitchen Detectives" using the kitchen spy fingerprint development pad, brush, fingerprint record sheets adhesive tape and corn starch (not included). Each experiment is clearly and concisely explained with simple language and complete illustrations. The kit engages children with fun, easy-to-conduct experiments and activities while teaching core science concepts including, but not limited to, Newton's three laws, crystal formation and static electricity. The Kitchen Science kit is a valuable addition to the budding scientist's collection.
Penguin Putnam Inc./Viking Children's Books, $16.99 (Hard Cover)
What if a boring lesson about the food chain becomes a sing-aloud celebration about predators and prey? A twinkle-twinkle little star transforms into a twinkle-less, sunshine-eating-and rhyming Black Hole? What if amoebas, combustion, metamorphosis, viruses, the creation of the universe are all irresistible, laugh-out-loud poetry? Well, you're thinking in science verse, that's what. And if you can't stop the rhymes... the atomic joke is on you. A CD with text read by Scieszka and Smith is included. Product Description
You Explore It Human Body is a human model that includes squishy vital organs and body systems visible through a clear shell. Muscles, bones, and respiratory, digestive, excretory, neurological, and digestive systems are all represented in the model. The companion book, Insides Out!, takes readers through all the body systems and explains how the body processes and benefits from eating a pizza. Included on each page are many special features such as "Try This!" activities, "Gross Alert" fun facts, "Q&A" challenges, photographs of actual internal organs, and lots of interesting trivia. An "organ-izer" poster illustrates the removable organs in the model and is a place to put the body parts that are removed using plastic tweezers and forceps. After reassembly, the model can be displayed on the included stand.
Green Science's Solar Mechanics kit contains materials and instructions for building a solar module which can be expanded and easily reconfigured into numerous sun-powered toys. The most amusing of these was an off-balance, vibrating robot; more impressive were the fan-based illusions. The solar module is a tricky build, requiring careful attention to detail, made all the more satisfying when mistakes are made, discovered, and corrected. The instructions suggest that a bright lamp will be sufficient to power the module, but in our experience only bright, direct sunlight gave good results; even a window screen or a passing cloud slowed the fan considerably. But the children enthusiastically put the motor through all its paces and then read up on how solar cells work - and any toy that leads kids to pursue more scientific knowledge and understanding is worth having.
The TK2 Scope is a giant step up from the typical "toy" microscopes. The impressive magnification (40x, 100x, and 400x) and the two LED lights (one positioned above and one below) allow kids to get a good look at the micro world that escapes the naked eye. The 48-page experiment manual teaches users how to set up and use the microscope, and offers prepared slides to help users become familiar and comfortable not only with the scope's abilities but perhaps more importantly, how to "read" what's on the slides. Five blank slides, tweezers, pipette dissecting needle, stains, a covered Petri dish and more are included.
Houghton Mifflin Co., $35.00 (Hard Cover)
The Way We Work shows how individual systems - circulatory, respiratory, lymphatic, digestive, nervous, endocrine, immune, musculoskeletal, and reproductive - work together to make the human body function the way it does. Beginning with cell structure and the DNA that defines us, and ending with the cells from a man and a woman combining to create new life, this captivating journey brilliantly shares with readers the science of ourselves.
Odyssey promotes itself as the science magazine for children, a refreshingly accurate description. This publication has an intuitive knack for connecting kids in all things scientific at a totally kid level of fascination, intrigue and awe. It's like yanking the table cloth out from under entire place settings of real-life science without toppling a thing, and that's a darn good trick that'll get kids' attention issue after issue. And if a few preconceptions actually topple, hey, that's science. The stories-including interviews with scientists, profiles, travel pieces, controversial features, historic items and short fiction-are well-researched and well-written without talking down to readers or relying on whacky cartoon graphics like so many kids magazines.
Whether you're child is learning at your home computer or sitting at a classroom computer, this interactive "imagineering" (where imagination meets engineering) program combines the fun of building an imaginative roller coaster with hands-on lessons in the laws and limits of science. The goal is to build a roller coaster that, step by step, surmounts the many obstacles in its path. Each step involves positioning different pieces of roller coaster track from the 19-piece track menu, or items such as hydraulic lifters and spring accelerators from the tools menu. Each decision reinforces scientific principles, from trajectory and gravity to energy conservation and friction. It's all based on National Science Education curriculum standards.
Genetics & DNA is a science experiment kit that examines the heredity and variation of organisms. It includes an exceptional experiment manual and most materials necessary (denatured alcohol and some common household products are also needed) to conduct 20 meaningful investigations on DNA, inheritance, dominant and recessive genes, composition of cells, and analyzing DNA evidence.
Walk in the footsteps of Copernicus, Darwin and Einstein as you learn about their discoveries and put their science to the hands-on test. Learn about light, colors and sound, steam and engines, magnetism and electricity, atoms and molecules, stars and planets, microelectronics and much more. Kit covers the accomplishments of over 140 scientists and civilizations. Features 100 different experiments.
We've all heard the phrase "opposites attract." Now kids will learn just what that means in this Disney DVD devoted to explaining the science behind magnets. Host Asa Kalamar has definitely cornered the market on magnetism in every sense of the word. He's charismatic and fun. And he knows how to explain the north pole-south pole forces of attraction and repulsion as they relate to magnets. It's a tad complicated when he talks to a Disney "imagineer" about how audio speakers use magnets. But it's cool to know that it's important for the many speakers used throughout the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride at Disney.By the end of the DVD, families will be inspired to think creatively using science. Don't forget to check the "Try it Yourself" area for suggestions on creating magnet art.
For more Disney Imagineering DVDs, view our entire list of award winners here.