May 172012

Science experiments.

We really don’t get along.

It all started in the 9th grade when I caught the towel on fire in the lab. I seem to have struggled with science labs ever since. And I’ve taken a lot of lab classes. I don’t know what it is about me, maybe I’m just bad luck in the lab. But failed science labs seem to follow me around.

What’s a homeschool mom to do though? I don’t want to skip science! As my kids have gotten older, I have them do more of the experiments. And I’ve learned how to identify the sources of experimental error over the years.

But sometimes it is nice for my kids to see how the experiment is supposed to work.

And now I have found a great resource for doing just that.

Go Science!

Go Science videos include science demonstrations by Ben Roy. He performs these demonstrations with a live audience of students in elementary and middle school. Not only does he perform the demonstrations, but he also explains why they work. And he always points the child back to how science demonstrates God’s power and creativity.

There are 6 titles in the series.

  1. Motion and the Laws of Gravity
  2. Simple Machines, Sound, Weather
  3. Magnetism, Electricity, Engineering, and Design
  4. Chemistry, States of Matter, Life Sciences
  5. Air, Flight
  6. Water, Space, Solar System

I received 2 DVD’s from Library and Educational Services to review.

Volume 3 includes fun demonstrations such as an electromagnet, making a compass, and a Tesla coil. In Volume 5 there are the Egg in the Bottle experiment, Can Crush, Cartesian Diver and many more. Each of these videos is between 45 minutes and 1 hour long.

We own a lot of science videos, but none are like these. Most of the videos we watch are documentaries. Some do include demonstrations, but these are the first I’ve watched that contain just demonstrations.

Ben Roy is very excited about sharing science with children and it shows in these presentations. My 10 year old son really enjoys these videos and will watch demonstration after demonstration. That’s not really the way the videos were designed to be used though, because the segments are a bit repetitive when watched one after another. My 5-1/2 year old daughter insisted that she was NOT going to like these videos, but I noticed that she didn’t leave the room when they were on. Later she admitted that she actually did like them after all. Even my toddler was entertained.

On the other hand, my 14 year old son and 12 year old daughter were not very fond of the videos. The suggested age range is 6 to 14, so they are at the upper end of the target audience. And my older 2 children are very no-nonsense type of kids. They have never liked programs in which they felt they were being talked to like… well, like children. That’s just how they are. I didn’t mind Ben Roy’s enthusiasm myself. I do think that since these are videos of live demonstrations, some of his volume and excitement would be better suited to being in the audience than it is for the video. It’s kind of like the difference between actors on stage and film. Stage actors speak loudly with exaggerated movements, while film actors act like you’re right there, because the camera is.

This sample is a good representation of the rest of the videos.

I think the demonstrations are excellent and the science is well-explained, but some students may be bothered by Ben Roy’s style.

I received these videos from Library and Educational Services. They are a wholesale distribution company that sells books and media to resellers,  libraries, and schools. Homeschoolers are included in the schools category! I have purchased from them in the past, and their prices and selection are fantastic. The Go Science videos are only $8.97 each, or you can order all 6 for $47.95.

Be sure to visit to read more reviews of Go Science.

Disclosure: I received these videos free for the purposes of this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Dec 072011

Do you have a future engineer in your home? A model lover?

How about a history buff? Or a child who is interested in wars or weapons?

The Pitsco Medieval Machines Pack is a fantastic resource for any of the above students and many more. Designed to be used by students about 5th grade and up, this pack contains kits to build both a model catapult and a trebuchet. Also included are weights for the trebuchet, clay for launching, assembly instructions, and a manual with experiments to perform using the catapult and trebuchet.

Both of the machines are made of strong but lightweight basswood. The pieces are stamped into a single piece of wood and are punched out just before assembly. The assembly required a few additional items, such as glue and a hobby knife. My 13 year old son assembled both the machines with minimal assistance from me. He thought the trebuchet was more difficult to assemble than the catapult because the instructions were not as clearly written. Also the sling for the trebuchet required tying knots in string, and it was difficult to achieve the same length of string on both sides of the sling to make both sides even.

After assembling the machines, the real fun begins. In the Siege Machines book are various experiments designed to be performed with the catapult and trebuchet.

The catapult experiments begin with mass versus distance. Different sized clay balls are launched from the catapult, and the distance the ball travels in the air is recorded for each. This experiment is followed by two math sections to practice converting between the English and metric system and calculating averages. Then the physics behind the catapult is explained, followed by another experiment testing different rubber bands.

The trebuchet section begins with an explanation of the science behind the trebuchet. I found this very helpful, because I was not familiar with a trebuchet before this project. There is a discussion on prediction with an experiment testing different masses of projectiles and different masses of plates. Further experimentation with the trebuchet involves attaching wheels and learning about their affect on the operation of the machine.

This is hands-on learning at its best! Students gain valuable skills in following instructions while assembling the machines. They can learn about the uses of the catapult and trebuchet in warfare, while learning about physics. Students learn firsthand about experimental error and the need for repeating data points. I’ve had my son go a step further and use EXCEL to plot the data, so he’s learned about using formulas in spreadsheets, as well as curve fitting tools. He also has made a video of the assembly and each of the experimental points. He was able to understand the motion of the trebuchet much better after watching a launch in slow motion.

Here’s my son’s finished video of the catapult assembly and a trial launch.

Here’s the trebuchet in action.

The Medieval Machines pack is available for $21.95 from the Pitsco website. They have many other interesting products too! My son and I have thoroughly enjoyed these projects, and I highly recommend them. Thanks Pitsco!


Disclosure: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review of the product. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.