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Fun Hands-on Learning with Tinker Crate

It’s officially summer. And for our home that means that we’re spending a lot of time outside, at the pool, and have scaled back a bit from the lesson plans. 

However, that doesn’t mean that the homeschool learning stops during the summer. In fact, it’s the time that I especially try to provide hands-on learning opportunities to ward off the summer slump. 

Our boys are especially excited when they have things to build. Me, I’m excited when the lesson plans are already put together and I don’t have to do any prep. Tinker Crate offers the perfect fit for our family – a kit that includes everything we need (no shopping for me), detailed direction, and the chance for our kids to work on STEM projects and keep the learning going. 

Homeschool Learning with the Infinity Mirror 

Kaleb and I recently worked on the Infinity Mirror crate and had a fun learning about double sided mirrors and illusions. Overall, the project took us about 20 minutes to put together (I did have to help him a little bit). 

Tinker Crates are recommended for ages 9-16+ (Kaleb is 10), but even though he was on the lower end of the age range, he was easily able to follow along with the directions. 

What’s Included in the Tinker Crate

  • The full project – and all the materials you need to create
  • Your blueprint – how to put your project together
  • The Tinker Zine – more activities and learning opportunities
  • Links to video tutorials of all Tinker Crate projects

As a mom, I have to say that having EVERYTHING in the box is a huge help for me. There is nothing to cut out, trim, make “just right” – it is something we can literally pull out and start building. (This makes me happy!) I also love the terms they use to help kids get in the mode of tinkering – blueprints are still instructions, but they are setting the stage for the science and engineering that will happen!

Creating the Iris 

The first step in creating our infinity mirror was putting together the iris. This was one of the areas I had to help a little because it involved double sided sticky dots (and peeling the right layer off can be a little tricky at times). 

At first glance the iris doesn’t seem anything special – just a round circle, but it’s importance is shown once the second step of building the mirror is put into play. Basically, the iris will open/shut with a simple twist. 

Our completed iris took us about 10 minutes to put together – not too bad. All of the templates were included and Kaleb was able to follow the directions easily (both picture and written directions). 

Building the Lens

Once the lens was put together, we worked on the mirror component – and it was really interesting. One of the mirrors was a double-sided piece (allowing you to see through) and the bottom mirror (seen on top above) was a single sided mirror. 

Inside we had a component that we hooked up to a 9v battery and provided light inside when connected and the lens can be opened/closed by twisting the bottom section. With the lights lit, the two mirrors give the illusion that the inside of the lens is bottomless. 

When the light is off, the double sided mirror doesn’t allow any light through so you only see your reflection and nothing else, but when the light is on, the light is allowed through and the illusion begins. 

To give you a little peek, here is a 2 minute clip where we share our infinity mirror (feed readers can click here to see). 

A Little More About Tinker Crate (& Thoughts From Me)

Tinker Crate is one of the hands-on learning crates from Kiwi Crate and targeted toward ages 9-16+. They also offer crates for preschool age (Koala Crate), the standard Kiwi Crate (ages 5-8), and a Doodle Crate (ages 9-16+). Each of the various crates also focus on different aspects of learning: playing, art & design, science, and engineering.

The projects have all been reviewed by child development experts and are kid-approved. Crates come with free shipping and subscribers receive additional benefits, including bonus online content to extend the learning.

Learn more about the monthly subscription plans here.

Save 30% using code SHARE30 during checkout! 

Learning How to Make an Electromagnet – Project Attraction from EEME

Learning about electromagnets with Project Attraction from EEME

One of the best additions to our homeschool time this year has been the projects from EEME. Zachary has absolutely loved the hands-on learning and put it well into practice. One could say he is ‘wired’ this way (and yes, the pun was definitely intended)!

Learning about electronics one project at a time and gaining the knowledge of the ‘why’ behind how things work has been encouraging and confidence-building for Zachary. He has since started asking his dad to help out with projects (or may have attempted some on his own – cough), but it has given him a much deeper interest in how and why things work the way they do. 

Learning How to Make an Electromagnet

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Using Project Attraction from EEME, Zachary learned how magnetism is related to electricity and built an electromagnet. The project taught about: 

  • reed switches
  • electric current and heat

Overall, Zachary was able to finish the project in about an hour and a half (build time is approximately 1.5-2.5 hours) because he had a little bit of a hang up on one portion of the process and needed my help. Typically, he is able to work through the steps without parental help (I love that), but the fine wire used in the building of the electromagnet was more challenging and  required a little assistance from me at that point in the project. 

As with all of their projects, there are short step-by-step video tutorials to follow along in the building process. All of the materials needed for the project were enclosed in the box and detailed in the first video:

  • a small magnet
  • an LED
  • a 2″ wire
  • a resistor
  • a reed switch
  • a metal bolt with tape around thread
  • a thin wire coil
  • sandpaper
  • AA battery
  • rubberband
  • paperclip

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The timing of this project from EEME couldn’t have been better. As part of one of our co-op classes for The Mad Scientists Club book, the kids participated in a science fair where they chose a short story read during the year and then worked on a project based on what they learned. They needed to explain the scientific principle behind the project and create a display to showcase their learning. 

The electromagnet project fit in perfectly with the story “The Voice in the Chimney,” and Zachary was able to base his entire science display on this project. (We won’t talk about the short detour he took after putting together the project when he considered creating a much larger electromagnet using his father’s riding lawn mower battery. Fortunately, someone caught onto the boy’s mind meandering and he lived to see another day.)

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On a much more sane note, Zachary put together a science board explaining how electromagnets worked and showed the one he had created using Project Attraction and then another he tried on his own following the same principles learned in the video clips from EEME. I love that he was able to use the one project as a jumping off point to create more and learn more!

One of the big things learned during this process was the heat generated when creating the electromagnet (the bigger one he created generated more heat, so THANK GOODNESS he didn’t get far on the one with the lawnmower battery). The current flowing through creates the warmth/heat and the battery can also quickly drain if left connected. 

Things to LOVE About EEME

Aside from the fact that all the supplies are included in each of the EEME project kits, the video curriculum is well put together and explain the building process in detail. Each of the videos is between 2 – 10 minutes long. In addition:

  • videos explain the step-by-step process AND the principles involved (how/why something works) – a huge help for parents who don’t know the answers themselves (cough)
  • shorter videos help those with limited attention spans
  • comprehension questions ensure kids are understanding what you are doing
  • videos can be stopped/paused if needed during the process
  • the videos are free to watch – check them out here and get a peek!

The projects would be wonderful extensions to current curriculum or even as after school learning – or even make a great gift! There are different purchase options available, including a basic monthly subscription, individual projects, and a 6 month Project Set. They have different purchase options, and we’ve completed the first four projects so far from the basic subscription.  You can find more information on the EEME website, or follow them on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Learn More About EEME

EEME makes hands-on projects and provides FREE online lessons to teach kids electronics, fostering their curiosity for how things work and prepping them for the STEM opportunities of tomorrow.

Each project kit is paired with online curricula to not only show your family how to assemble the kit, but more importantly, teach them how it works.

They also have FREE interactive online lessons to teach your family the fundamentals of electronics. Sign up for FREE to access EEME’s online lessons.

Project Attraction is one of the projects in the Builder Basic 6 Project Set and also the fourth project in EEME’s monthly subscription program. Zachary has thoroughly enjoyed all he has worked on (especially Project Amp) – a HUGE thumbs up from our family!

As I mentioned, we’ve worked on several other projects from EEME. If you’re interested in learning more about their monthly subscription program, be sure to check out the below posts for more information:

Building an electromagnet with Project Attraction - EEME

Project Attraction is perfect for ages 7+

Time Required: 1.5 – 2.5 hours

Parental involvement: varies based on child

 

We received this kit as part of a review campaign, and this review is our honest opinion. Our family has loved the various projects and highly recommends them. 

Egg Drop Experiment – #STEM Challenge for Kids

 Egg drop experiment #stem challenge for kids

For our final co-op class, the kids were all challenged to create a device that would keep a raw egg safe from a second story window drop. They have had a blast with their prior STEM challenges this semester, and this egg drop experiment was no different. Seeing the various creative ideas each came up with to protect their eggs – and the groans and cheers that resulted was equally as fun as the egg drop itself! 

The eggs were supplied when the kids arrived, but during the week prior there were a few guidelines to follow in creating a protective barrier for the eggs: the completed device could be no longer/taller/wider than 12 inches and they needed to use items they found around the house. This meant that if a parachute was added, it was also part of the 12 inch guideline, so it needed to fit within that parameter. And yes, I brought a ruler. A few kids had guessed beforehand and ended up making last minute modifications to have it fit. 

Egg Drop Experiment Ideas

Ideas from the kids varied and it was much fun to see if they worked and hear their theories as to why they thought it would. Some had tested their devices before coming (and had success), but many waited to see how it would work. 

Egg Drop #STEM Challenge for kids-2

Our first egg drop used an old plastic jar lined with cotton balls galore. The jar was surrounded by skewers and adequately taped. The intent was to drop it and have the skewers cushion the drop so the jar wouldn’t hit the ground. 

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While the container flipped during it’s drop, the impact wasn’t enough to break the egg and the cotton balls did their job cushioning the blow. The only thing that did break the egg was trying to get it out of the jar. A success! 

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A recycled dishwasher tablet container filled with popcorn was the second entry. The overall container was very lightweight. 

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Another egg survival! 

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A ziploc bag filled with marshmallows and the egg surrounded by a gallon sized ziploc bag with more marshmallows was another entry. Predictions were looking good for this submission. 

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Unfortunately, the density of the marshmallows was enough to crush the egg and it made a fairly runny mess. 

Egg Drop #STEM Challenge for kids-9

The smallest entry in the egg drop was a little box cushioned with cotton batting, a single egg carton styrofoam piece, all topped with rubber bands, the lid, and secured shut with a few rubber bands. 

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Even though it was so small, it worked beautifully! 

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A single roll of toilet paper with the cardboard tube removed and wrapped in duct tape was a cozy home for another egg. 

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The squishably soft goodness of whatever brand used was enough to cushion the drop – another survivor! 

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Bubble wrap around a small box was a last minute pull-together from one of the boys who may have forgotten to work on his assignment until the last minute. A parachute was also part of the plan, but was nixed due to size limitations. 

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Fortunately his last minute effort paid off and his entry made it! 

Egg Drop #STEM Challenge for kids-13

This next one was fairly simple: tissue paper surrounding an egg with extra cushioning inside a plastic baggie then placed in a paper bag with more tissue paper. It was tested several times at home with success. 

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Unfortunately, the padding was not done the same as it had been prior, and the egg did not survive the official drop.

Egg Drop #STEM Challenge for kids-8

Someone’s dad might be a little upset this summer when he realizes a few car sponges are missing from the garage. Originally this creation had a parachute added, but it needed to be removed because of size requirements.  The sponges were glued together and a small space was hollowed out in the middle to house the egg. 

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This one was a definite success, even after multiple bounces when it landed – and HIGH bounces at that!

 

Overall, this was such a FUN time with the kids and a great way to end our semester class together. Have you ever done an egg drop with your co-op class or kids at home? If not – have some fun and see who can come up the most creative idea! 

 

Additional STEM Challenges

 

 

Build an Alarm – Electronics for Kids

build an alarm - electronics project for kids

Apparently Zachary has something special that needs protecting from his dangerous siblings or the animals roaming in our woods. He had the option of creating a door alarm, but decided instead that his cash box needed more protection. Using our most recent EEME kit, Project Tentacle, Zachary worked to build an alarm using electronics.

Over the past six months, Zachary has learned so much about bread boards, resistors, capacitors, and how to get his wires crossed (or not). It has been a fabulous learning time for him and something he has soaked up and absolutely loved.

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While we made a suggestion to not label his cash box, the alarm he built using the lessons from EEME were clearly a better option (grins). The alarm system using Project Tentacles was definitely a more creative option for his cash protection, and again Zachary learned more about circuits and different components, including NPN transistors – this was fun for me to learn as well, and you’ll hear more about it in the video clip below.

Building an Alarm – The Process

Contents for building EEME Project Tentacle

Because we have worked on several other projects from EEME, we had a few of the key components already on hand: a power supply and a breadboard. Otherwise, we received the following items in our kit:

  • buzzer
  • 2 – 6+” long white wires
  • 2 – 2” yellow wires
  • 1 – 1” blue wire
  • 2 resistors: orange band
  • 1 resistor: blue/green band
  • 2 3-prong transistors

I’ll be honest and tell you, the name of the project scared me a little bit at first! Fortunately, it wasn’t anything that involved lots of legs and crawled around the house – although the finished project did have some long wires that were all over the place.

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Zachary has a much better understanding of circuitry now that he has completed three projects with EEME, so it didn’t take him as long to complete this project overall other than figuring out the best way to ‘rig’ his cash box with an alarm and make it work every time the box was opened (a little duct tape goes a long way).

A Peek at How the Alarm Works

 

Zachary did a great job explaining the different components and how his alarm worked (ignore that I called the base a breadbox, please? I do know better than that!). Feed readers can click here to watch the video.

 

review questions

One thing I really appreciate about the projects from EEME is the constant review between the video clips. Some are review from the lesson while others are overall electronic questions based on what they have learned throughout.

You can see the three other projects we’ve worked on here:

 

A Little More About EEME

EEME makes hands-on projects and provides FREE online lessons to teach kids electronics, fostering their curiosity for how things work and prepping them for the STEM opportunities of tomorrow.

Each project kit is paired with online curricula to not only show your family how to assemble the kit, but more importantly, teach them how it works.

They also have FREE interactive online lessons to teach your family the fundamentals of electronics. Sign up for FREE to access EEME’s online lessons.

Project Tentacles is one of the projects in the Builder Basic 6 Project Set and also the third project in EEME’s monthly subscription program. Zachary has thoroughly enjoyed all he has worked on (especially Project Amp) – a HUGE thumbs up from our family!

 build an alarm - electronics for kids with EEME Project Tentacles

Perfect for ages 7+

Time Required: 1-2 hours

Parental involvement: varies based on child

Jellybean and Toothpick Structure STEM Challenge

Jellybean and toothpick STEM challenge - building a structure that supports weight

For one of our most recent STEM classes at co-op we took advantage of Dollar Tree jellybeans and an overabundance of toothpicks. The kids have had so much fun with our hands-on challenges and learning about the best ways to build structures that are weight bearing and can stand a little pressure.

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Initially we divided up into four teams of 2-3 students each but gave the kids the option of combining with one other team to build their jellybean and toothpick structure. The kids decided that was definitely the better option and quickly moved together. They also realized it provided them with more jellybeans for eating, should they not used two entire bags for their structure (smart kids).

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One of the BEST things I heard came immediately after the kids combined (and while I eavesdropped on their strategy talk). Both teams were discussing the best way to build a structure that would support the most weight and still have a good height. From each team, the words “a triangle allows the strongest support” was heard. (Yes, they are listening!!)

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KEVA Planks were used as a sort of ‘holding pen’ for one of the teams – they didn’t want to risk floor contamination of jellybeans that may possibly be edible later. The other team obviously had no regard for where their beans ended up.

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Both teams worked with a triangular setup for their structures, although one took a more systematic approach, setting up an assembly line of sorts. Team members started the process of putting a toothpick into a jellybean and creating piles, while others created pre-made triangles for another team member to work into their structure.

 

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Overall both teams had a blast with this challenge.  One structure was definitely more organized and that may be the team that wasn’t distracted by eating jellybeans along the way. 

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While Team 1’s structure was taller overall, it came to a definite peak and would not support as much weight when added (we stacked file folders on each structure to see how many it would hold). Team 1 eventually lost their triangular structure as their building continued( see the note on jellybean consumption), lost focus, and that ended up being their downfall.

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Team 2 had a much wider and elaborate base design (neater overall) thanks to their assembly line process. While their structure didn’t reach quite as much height as Team 1’s design, it supported more than twice the weight since it was able to more evenly distribute the weight when stacked.

(And jellybeans were consumed by all).

Such a fun and sticky challenge. Incidentally, picking up a box of 500 toothpicks that are spilled can be pointy and painful.

Additional STEM Challenges

Bouncing Egg Science Experiment – Dissolving Calcium Carbonate with Acid

bouncing egg science experiment from Homeschool Creations

Before you go and think I’m crazy nuts, our bouncing egg science experiment involved a safe acid (grins). Zachary has loved all the hands-on projects to go along with his Christian Kids Explore Chemistry this year, and this one to see how acid interacts with calcium carbonate was no different.

That said – it was super easy to pull together and one that every family should do (did I mention it was easy?). Aside from learning about chemical reactions, what’s not to love about an egg that can bounce?!

Bouncing Egg Science Experiment

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The main purpose of this experiment was to test the reaction of a weak acid (white vinegar) with calcium carbonate (CaCO3 – an eggshell). If you’d like to try this at home, you only need a few items:

 

Here’s the quick science explanation:

An egg shell is made up of calcium carbonate, so when the egg is soaked in vinegar (about 4% acetic acid) a chemical reaction begins. Carbon dioxide is released (the bubbles you see on the shell) as the vinegar begins to dissolve the shell. The membrane of the egg will remain (the rubbery part of the egg).

 

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The egg was supposed to soak for 24 hours and then observations were to be tracked. Ours ended up soaking a bit longer (as in four days) because it stayed in the schoolroom over the weekend and we completely forgot out it. It was a lovely stink come Monday morning. (grins)

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The vinegar was carefully drained from the egg and GENTLY rinsed off under clean water. (May I stress gently again?)

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We pulled out another raw egg to compare and contrast to our experiment. The egg that had been soaked felt completely rubbery and could be gently squeezed (again with the gentle). The entire shell had dissolved thanks to the chemical reaction with the vinegar.

Size-wise there was a significant difference as well. When the egg soaked in the vinegar,  some of the vinegar and water in the vinegar moved through the membranes of the egg and into the egg. Egg membranes are semi-permeable so water can move through them (an example of osmosis).

 

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Trying to find the yolk now the shell was missing, we grabbed a flashlight as well to see how translucent the egg was. 

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The fun part came in the bouncing of the egg. To keep the counters clean, we pulled out a tray and tried dropping it from different heights to see if it would break.  You can see a short (and slightly blurry – sorry!) video here or below.

 

Once we were done bouncing and playing with the egg, we popped it with a fork to feel the membrane of the egg. (And yes, we all thoroughly washed our hands when we were done!).

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This is one of those experiments we would like to do again, but this time with several eggs in different jars and then try a few variables when we are done soaking them all in vinegar: moving one to plain water, one to cornstarch, and letting one sit out on the tray to see what happens to them all.

There’s so much more we could do, but this was a fun start to our egg experiments.

More Science Fun

If you have some time and need a few ideas, we worked on both of these projects this year and had a blast with them (especially the cookie skillet!).

Atomic Cookie Skillet Models – learn more about the Periodic Table and how what atoms consist of with this fun (and edible) project!

Building Atom Models – build simple atoms together and make chemistry hands-on for your kids with this easy activity.