Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Fall 2015 Toys
Ages: 15 & Up
Manufacturer: Thames & Kosmos
Price: $124.95

Nanotechnology is the technological understanding and development of that which is very, very small. This chemical science set aims to help students first develop the concept of the nanoscale -- about one ten-thousandth of a hair's breadth -- and then to explore some of the ways in which nanotechnology comes into play in our modern lives.

The kit's manual outlines 41 "experiments" that focus on sizes, organic molecules, surface chemistry, surfactants, light scattering, and adhesion. These were often very eye-opening -- those focusing on the clubmoss spores that resisted water and the anti-fog coating for clear surfaces were particularly fascinating. This led to us devouring the text of the manual (often, students skip over the genuinely educational content in science kit manuals; that was not the case here) to find out what was really going on. There is enough material in the kit for many hours of exploration. The kit also includes a "game board" for students to track their progress through the experiments, and there are molecule boards for constructing the Lewis structures of the organic molecules as a means of learning the bonding rules for carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen.

Many of the activities are observational rather than strictly experimental (that is, they carry out a scientific demonstration but do not follow the scientific method per se), and despite the manufacturer's repeated admonition that this is for youth over the age of 15, we found that the majority of the activities were well within reach of an interested middle schooler. Also, as none of the activities require mathematical computation, the science lends itself more to the exploratory science experience of the middle schooler rather than to the more rigorous science curriculum generally expected at the high school level. However, adults should supervise carefully when younger scientists are using the kit.

Parents who give this set to a curious child will not be disappointed in the learning opportunities provided. Youths will be thrilled at the range of activities and find much joy in discovery -- in one young tester's words, "This kit is AWESOME."

Emily Crawford   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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