Academics in a Box~ Review

Everyone says that learning should be fun. But so few people seem to know how or have the time to make it as fun as it should be.

Groovy Lab in a Box was created to encourage children to channel their :inner STEMist”. Each box is full of opportunities for children to focus their imagination, determination, and naturally inquisitive nature with a way to complete a monthly STEM project using the Engineering Design Process.

Using the Engineering Design Process, students are held to a variety of standards for their finished product. They are provided the opportunity to engage their imaginations and apply critical thinking to their own desired outcome. Groovy Lab in a Box is the brainchild of scientists, parents, educators, and business owners who have worked in the private sector of the science community. The goal?  To make sure that every child utilizes his or her STEMist potential to the fullest. 🙂

  My boys, ages 8 and 5 were really so excited when this arrived.  For those of you who do not know STEM stands for: science, technology, engineering, mathematics. Talk about good stuff right? As home educators in fact, this covers so much material, in such a fun and exciting way, its a blessing!  In each box, your children will receive materials for fun, hands-on projects as well as an engineering design challenge – all focused on that month’s topic. All STEMists receive a Lab Notebook too, where they can read about that month’s topic, perform investigations and document their findings. They have the chance to  investigate, brainstorm, plan, build, test and redesign their own creations.  When we were asked to review Groovy Lab in a Box it really was perfect timing. You see, we struggle with science right now.  My oldest loves STEM, but I honestly had no idea how to even begin making something that would work for him myself or how to encourage my younger two one who is very hands on and interested and another who doesn’t really have any interest yet (she is 3 so .. ). But before we agreed I let them see the website, and both boys were hooked. Our poor mailman..until the time it arrived…..My boys said it took forever for it to arrive but when it got here, they could not open it fast enough. Our box was “Here Comes The Sun”, all about Solar Energy. It included everything we needed for four experiments and as a bonus solar paper to use however we liked. And then our day was planned for us. 😀

 

As a sidenote we learned (and I Love it)  that all of these themed boxes are put together by employees of Eggleston, a non-profit that trains and employs disabled individuals so that they can do their part in the work force and enjoy earning a living.  That said, the making of the box is just as special as all of the goodies that are packed into each of these boxes.  just as much good work going into each box as is coming out:)  What can I say? As someone who worked with this population for many year, my heart is still warmed and fuzzied when I find a company that is so supportive! If I needed to be swayed a bit more, this would have done the trick.

So we began by reading about solar energy in the Lab Notebook provided, we also used the special password we were given to access the Beyond in a Box online portal.  There were LOADS of amazing videos specifically related to the solar theme as well as printable activities, a reading library, a themed Pinterest board. It would have taken me ages to try to find just a few of those things on my own, so it was fantastic to be able to have it all right there, ready to go.  We watched several videos about what it means to be an inventor, the STEM process and the variety of uses for solar balloons (I had NO idea!).  My 8 yr old  always love doing science, but seeing those got him even more involved and curious about science.

 

We also learned how to use these same materials to make an audio conductivity sensor. I find these things to be very confusing I admit, I do not have a head for science and math at all, but the lab notebook they provided gave very clear, step-by-step instructions and we were able to plow through. It took some work, but we did it. The boxes are recommended for 8yrs,but I think my 5 yr old son was able to do a lot with some supervision and assistance.  It is so very helpful how they give plenty of room for the creative, ever growing, scientist/engineer to think about the what and the how in all of what they are doing.  For my, I see this really helping them to grasp and understand the concept and the process itself more concretely..  I wish I’d had something like this when I was in school – I’d have enjoyed lab work a lot more!
My oldest did not use the lab notebook as much as I would have liked but if he had, these notebooks are set up making it super easy to record our thoughts as we consider what could happen, what really did happen  and what we thought about all of it.  My oldest son really loves building and doing different experiments, but is not so fond of the writing/data collection part of it all. These notebooks though are full of question prompts and simple charts to help children record information, and trying to make it more fun at the same time!
Ultimately though all three had the best time with the solar oven. While has gotten colder out, this is something they are eagerly looking forward to come summer, once again. We were able to use the shipping box to make the oven framework and the step-by-step instructions they provided were just great (of course!). We also watched, on the portal, some online videos to see how the solar oven was invented in the 1700s, and just how many amazing things you really can cook (like cookies and bread!) We also learned how they are being used in developing countries as an alternative to making fires.  In no time at all my kiddos were ready to bake some cookies: it took a couple hours but it was definitely fun! Next time we are definitely going to make the cookies smaller; maybe flatter too to see if that speeds things up.
In the end, the final test was a challenge to develop and build a mini-desalination plant with the leftover supplies.  They had already tested the results with the conductivity sensor they made and the lab notebook & online portal did most of the teaching about the Greenhouse Effect and the water cycle.  They got to brainstorm and draw out on the best possible way to put the supplies together and then record the results.  Again, its nice to see the program reminding children that failed results aren’t negative, but actually an opportunity to learn a bit more, and redesign creative and even better way.  My oldest is rather competitive and so when something doesn’t work it does tend to get him down’; he can get quite  frustrated when things don’t work the way he thinks they should, so it was quite refreshing to have that encouragement within the notebook. A boost of confidence and a reminder in how important it is to perservere, especially in those really hard things.

I have to say, having three kids, all at different levels, can be quite challenging for us in our home education, but Groovy Lab in a Box sure made it a lot easier.  It was a great benefit to be able to open the box and get to the work, instead of having to take inventory, and go out to buy materials, then setting up a bunch of things for them before we can get started. Usually with all the prep work involved my kids have moved on and the learning opportunity, its gone. Missed.  I do plan to buy a subscription to this myself to use this as a part of our science for this year.  I think it will be easier and who can beat the thrill of a package that just shows up?  My kids say it is lots more fun too since there are so many hands-on activities and interesting things in the portal for them to see too. They have so many options too, its easy to make it fit in most any budget.

So a big thanks goes out to the Beyond a Box portal.  These boxes really do offer a more rounded and exciting, living, learning experience than anything we have found thus far!.

 

 

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