Three kids’ science books offer fun, fascinating experiments

From kitchen chemistry to bugs under rocks, these books demonstrate concepts and show how to apply the scientific method

Kids looking at bugs

SCIENCE PROJECTS  There’s a DIY science book for every kid, whether they are interested in physics, the natural world or just playing with candy. 

S. Kneidel/Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method2015

Summer has flown by. As the school year begins, three recently published books can pique kids’ curiosity about science and get them experimenting. The books, newly out in paperback or revised edition, offer a wealth of ideas for budding naturalists, physicists or chemists.

Many at-home, do-it-yourself physics books boast that their experiments can be done with household items, but then they go on to feature circular saws, PVC pipe, specialty wires and other items requiring a trip to the hardware store. Thankfully, physics teacher Bobby Mercer’s Junk Drawer Physics is not one of those books. Its demonstrations really do involve items that most people have around the house, including tape, old compact discs and paper clips. The most complicated items necessary are a glue gun and a drill.

The activities are more demonstration than experiment, but they are fun and accessible. Each comes with an explanation of the physics at play that uses easily understandable language. Helpful, if rather amateurish, black-and-white photos make sure that you’ll get the set-up right.

The Diet Coke and Mentos experiment is one of many options to explore chemistry in the kitchen with the book Candy Experiments 2. Loralee Leavitt/Andrews McMeel Publishing

For those who want to bring chemistry to the kitchen, Candy Experiments 2 by Loralee Leavitt offers a sweet selection of experiments. The book provides tips for turning its experiments into science fair projects. But the description of the scientific method is very bare-bones, and figuring out how to measure and analyze data will be up to the at-home chemist. Book sections highlight scientific concepts, from density to acids and bases.

Each experiment offers helpful notes on how much time it will take and the expertise required. An “easy”experiment compares dissolution rates between pouring and stirring Pixy Stix into water. An experiment that asks the reader to “get an adult”includes dry ice and a hammer for shattering Peeps marshmallow candies. The book has good color photographs and descriptions of the science taking place, making it stress-free reading for all ages.

Finally, for those who prefer to indulge their scientific curiosity with live creatures, there’s Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method. Written by biologist-turned-elementary school science teacher Sally Kneidel, this book offers more for the teacher or parent than for a young reader. It contains both a set of experiments and a collection guide for home or school terrariums.

The book has a wealth of information on the trapping, care and feeding of creepy-crawlies, including how to culture slime mold and where to order hissing cockroaches. Each crawly comes with at least five experiments, sets of classroom questions and often grids and graphs to assist in data collection. Its experiments make it a valuable addition to a biology-minded home or classroom. 

Buy Junk Drawer Physics, Candy Experiments 2 or Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method from Sales generated through the links to contribute to Society for Science & the Public’s programs.

Bethany was previously the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

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