EXPERISENSE NZ REVIEW: Exploring Science Homeschool Box

Lava lamp experiment

WHAT IS IN THE EXPERISENSE NZ SCIENCE EXPERIMENT HOMESCHOOL BOX?

This kit is all about having some scientific fun with experiments and adding in artistic flair. I love adding a kinaesthetic dimension to our learning! The box provides seven learning activities to do that are fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and are highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs.

The kit comes with a guide that outlines how to conduct each experiment and also provides information on the scientific principles being demonstrated. It’s a great way for kids to build on prior knowledge, as well as asking new questions!

The ExperiSense NZ Biology Box sells for NZD$27 online; I’ve bought and reviewed a number of their boxes with this one being received free in exchange for an honest review.

How to make your own lava lamp

Have you ever looked at a lava lamp and wondered how they work? Well, this experiment will let you make your own temporary lava lamp! We loved it to so much that we did it twice.

Fundamentally, it comes down to the fact that oil and water do not mix. This is because they are different densities (and oil will actually rise up to float on top of water – which you can see happen in the experiment). As you slowly drop food dye into the oil, watch how the droplets retain their own separate form (“immiscible” was our cool new word of the day). Once water is added, the food dye will slowly dissolve into the water but differences in density mean the oil will rise to the surface.

The magic happens when carbon dioxide gas is created by introducing a fizzing tablet! The chemistry being demonstrated means that as the solid tablet dissolves, bubbles of water-and-gas raise to the surface. As the carbon dioxide gas dissipates, density changes causing the bubbles to sink. FYI – in a real lava lamp what you are watching is caused by thermodynamic changes (i.e. the application of heat).

In our first experiment, we used 1/4 tablet, red + yellow food dye, the oil provided, and the cup provided. In our second experiment, we used 3/4 tablet, a recycled glass jar, our own kitchen oil, the blue dye provided + some red dye.

Extra Activities

The lava lamp experiment looks at both density and states of matter. You may want to explore these further with simple experiments such as:

Why do things float or sink? A great way to start is in natural environments, such as a river or beach, by gathering up materials such as driftwood, shells, rocks, and mangrove pods to experiment with. At home, consider experiments with buoyancy such as why an orange will float (unless you peel it!).

How does water demonstrate states of matter? I love using water to demonstrate how something can so easily change forms between solid > liquid > gas. A fun experiment relating to buoyancy is to freeze water in a bag (food delivery boxes can be great sources of pre-formed ice) and create an iceberg diorama in a sink or bucket; have fun seeing what toys can balance on the iceberg before it melts!

Oil and Water Painting

We really enjoy making marbled paper using shaving foam; this was our first time using oil. We used a large plastic tray and simply recycled our lava lamps (with some extra colours dropped onto the surface of the oil). We chose to use our own paper and dye, in addition to the card stock provided, and made lots of beautiful art work.

Tip: Have layers of cardboard and paper towels beneath your art so that it can absorb the excess oil. We waited until the next day (once the dye was dry) before layering the artwork between layers of paper towels and popping in hot water cupboard to finish drying.

Magic Trick: Once the paintings are completely dry, the oil will have changed the appearance of the paper but any ‘virgin’ paper will still appear white. If you hold the art up to a bright light then not only can you see your beautiful colours clearly but any ‘white’ corners will disappear and smokey ‘shadows’ will appear in their place instead!

How to make a rainbow

The kit comes with a very small prism that you can use to split light. As light enters the prism, it bends, and the different wavelengths will create a spectrum of colours as they exit. For us, the light exited onto the opposite wall and we found creating some shadow helped us see it more clearly. We lined up the prism with the sun after catching a wonderful rainbow that was refracting through our fish tank!

The kit also comes with a second rainbow experiment where a bendable ‘mirror’ is placed in a glass of water to reflect and refract light. We found this one a bit tricky but we did achieve a little colour splitting. Miss 6 actually most enjoyed casting shapes of reflected light onto the shadowed ceiling!

Extra Activity

Want to combine rainbows AND learning about the density of different liquids? Check out this fun experiment to make a sugar rainbow!

How to experiment with static electricity

The kit comes with a balloon, templates, and craft paper to make your own ‘jumping bunnies’ or frogs; we also had fun designing our own creatures in a variety of sizes. Rubbing the balloon energetically on clothes creates a temporary static charge which allows your creations to ‘jump’ or ‘dance’.

Extra Activity

Want to see and feel another invisible force? Pop one end of a straw partially into a balloon and secure the neck with a tight rubber band. Blow down the straw and watch the balloon inflate (just like a lung!) and then feel the air exit again out the straw! Talk about how some natural forces we can’t see (like gravity, or air in motion) but we can observe their effects on the world around us.

How to make magic tea

Beautiful colour changing butterfly tea!

The kit comes with two experiments for exploring acids and bases. One is experimenting with litmus paper and the other is making butterfly pea flower tea. I find the tea has a light floral flavour and like to drink it with a little liquid honey. When you brew it, the tea comes out a stunning vibrant blue; the addition of a little freshly squeezed lemon juice (changing the pH level) magically makes it a purple-pink colour!

Tip: Wet litmus paper can leave a yellow mark on benchtops (easily removed with Chemco) so it’s a good idea to place the strips on a piece of white card.

Tip: Hot water will have a more dramatic effect (than cold) when added to a teaspoon of baking soda (alkaline) or a teaspoon of baking powder (acidic).

Extra activities

Explore natural colour changing properties further by using a red cabbage to make a magic colour changing potion! Collect your magic molecules, make a potion, and use the rest to make your own litmus paper!

After watching how baking powder dramatically foams up when a little hot water is added, try making these light and fluffy scones and imagine how the baking powder helps the dough to rise when combined with the heat of the oven.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

Exploring the Human Body through Art

ExperiSense NZ Review: Exploring The Human Body Through Art Homeschool Box

WHAT IS IN THE EXPERISENSE NZ BIOLOGY HOMESCHOOL BOX?

I purchased the ExperiSense NZ Biology Box for NZD$25 to add a kinaesthetic dimension to our learning about the human body. The box provides fun learning crafts to do that are fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and are highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs.

The kit comes with a great book and ideas for ways to explore the content in the book (including most of the craft materials required). We added to it with a few great (and inexpensive) additions from Kmart: Factivity: Amazing Body Sticker Activity Book, Write & Wipe Wellbeing Book, and a poseable art mannequin for exploring movements and joints.

This is a great way for kids to ask questions like ‘What is in the human body?’ and ‘How does my body work?’. The kit proved to be fantastic value as the book alone retails for around NZD$20. It’s a well laid out hardback book, aimed at primary school aged children (KS1/KS2), with heaps of colour photos (as well as cool radiology and specialist pictures from hospital imaging).

What are the organs of the human body?

Miss 6 loves the Tinybop Human Body app so was keen to jump straight into having a life-size drawing of herself made on the paper provided. She then did a pretty good job of guessing where the internal organs (supplied) should get blu-tacked on and discussing what human organs do. Honestly, the two she wasn’t sure of (pancreas and gallbladder) I had to google myself to check where to place them. She’s pretty stoked that it’s hanging in the hallway along with other artwork from this box.

We also did reading about human organs in the book provided and did activities about them in our Factivity book. She also made up some pretty cool song and dance routines to demonstrate how organs like the human heart work.

The optional extension activity is to draw an additional system (such as the circulatory system or the nervous system) on the human body and talk about what organ systems these link to and how they support their function.

What does my skeleton look like?

We read about bones in the Human Body book and then did an x-ray activity in our Factivity book. One of the x-ray stickers was of a human hand – which perfectly tied in with our next craft.

The kit provides black paper, white paint, and instructions on creating your own radiology x-ray of a human hand; you will need to supply cotton bud sticks and strong craft glue. Tip: if you add water to the paint you will only need a little amount! Our first learning-by-doing part of the morning was realizing that thinning the paint too much simply has it oozing beneath the placed hand! Our second attempt went much better and we decided that using a smaller brush for flicking the paint also works better than a large brush.

There are lots of ways that kids can approach this activity. Miss 6 decided to have our ‘hand x-ray’ sticker in front of us and count how many bones should get placed for each finger. She was also fascinated by the negative space that our art created and we went on to create more body themed art along this theme.

We also used our poseable mannequin to explore the interplay between bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. We had fun taking turns posing the figure while the other person tried to replicate it in real life. We also used it when looking at how to draw a person.

What is in human blood?

Human blood is made up of several components: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. We’d already had fun learning about blood in our Factivity book – including exciting face-offs between red and white blood cells in a Tic Tac Toe championship.

The kit provided us with the materials needed to make our own sensory exploration of the human blood stream. We were supplied with both red and white water beads (Orbeez) which we used as red blood cells (pretending these were a mix of ones carrying oygen outward to the body, and depleted ones returning to get pumped to the lungs); red foam platelets for clotting, and wooden white cells for fighting infection. You’ll also need a container for soaking them in water; we had fun using our test tubes but as they grow dramatically we had most of them in a plastic tub.

We had lots of fun making this up and playing with it in the garden. We found the water beads were also useful for exploring other scientific principles such as: refraction of light; gravity, momentum, and incline surfaces; and applications of force. The last one included everything from experimenting with how much weight the water beads could support (i.e. like lily pads), the best way to crush them, how many could fit into various containers, and what size funnel they would fit through!

How to perform a simple magic trick

Squawking chicken magic trick!

Miss 6 enjoyed watching Disney’s Magic Camp so she was excited that the final activity in the box was a simple magic trick to help us explore amplification and hearing. We did a series of experiments to explore how the cup helped to amplify sound and really did get a chicken like sound (the secret being to have a highly waxed flattened strip at the end of the string and using a damp bamboo cloth). We also talked about natural environments we have visited the shape of the land has created a natural amphitheatre that amplifies sound.

Wondering what to do with those candles afterwards? We lit ours (parental supervision required) and discussed how the candle demonstrated changes to states of matter and what the causal factor was (heat). We also toasted marshmellows and created another magic trick – using paper, the melting candle wax, and dye to create simple batik art on paper!

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

ExperiSense NZ Review: Exploring Space Through Art Homeschool Box

Our own moon art under UV light!

WHAT IS IN THE EXPERISENSE NZ SPACE HOMESCHOOL BOX?

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is the flexibility that it provides for exploring learning through fun, hands-on projects that let you cater for your child’s individual learning needs.  There are many different learning styles and not all are catered for by task-orientated repetitive worksheets. For those that are highly visual and hands-on, finding alternative ways to engage in learning concepts is very important.

I purchased the ExperiSenseNZ Space Box for NZD$28 to add a kinaesthetic dimension to our learning about space. The box provides fun learning crafts to do that are fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and are highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs.

The kit comes with craft materials to explore our solar system through five activities. It anticipates that you will also have access to books / resources that provide additional learning information and you may want to supplement with your own craft materials also (we did).

Exploring the Solar System

We spent a few days creating and painting our own solar system (comprised of: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune). The kit comes with paint (red, UV yellow, blue, green, black, white) but we also supplemented with our own paint, glitter, and tinsel. We loved experimenting with the UV flashlight that is included!

We then took one of our Kiwi Crate boxes; painted it black, added silver and iridescent glitter over white glue; and created a solar system background that was a perfect fit for helping our solar system to stand safely while being interacted with.

Exploring the Sun and Moon

Creating the sun

I’ll confess that we jazzed this activity up a bit with materials of our own! Miss 6 wasn’t keen on painting the iceblock sticks with the UV yellow paint so instead we used the yellow yarn and big wooden beads that were provided and then bulked it out with our own multi-coloured yarn and created a Pippins-style sash of additional beads 😀

What I liked about the big wooden beads that are provided is that they can be used to create a wonderful ring for then hanging your finished display in the window. Draw the curtains in the evening and – Voila! – you put the sun to bed.

We also used the globe we’d created with our KiwiCo ATLAS crate and a lamp (as the sun) to explore the Earth’s relationship with the sun and how this creates both night/day and seasons.

Agamographs are fun to do! Colouring in the alternating strips is a visual processing exercise and then there’s the fun of folding them to reveal the illusion. These kids crafts are inspired by the works of artist Yaacov Agam.

Craters of the Moon

Our own moon art under UV light!

There is a visual provided showing the phases of the moon as well as an artistic rendering of the moon’s face. Kids can then keep their own moon journal for a month to watch how the moon’s appearance changes in the night sky (note: this is a great winter activity when it’s dark earlier!).

They can also mix up their own gray paint and using the tinfoil provided stamp out craters on their own moon.

Tip: This moon craft looks awesome under UV light and the leftover dark grey paint (applied very lightly) makes wonderful hand prints – we picked up great ridge-line details forensics style!

Additional Resources

We paired this homeschool box with the Factivity Discover The Science and Secrets of Planet Earth – Book (exploring magnetism and gravity), Factivity Incredible Space Sticker Activity Book (lots of fun!), and a book about space.

WHAT AGE IS IT SUITABLE FOR?

I found it to be a really good kit for Year 1 and Year 2 (KS1) with minimal parental help required. Slightly older primary school kids (KS2) may still enjoy the kit and could always use the materials as a springboard for slightly more complex presentations, such as adding a foam base and some mathematical calculations for their solar system creation: like this.

Tip: Consider setting aside a set of messy play clothes for this space project. We used a lot of acrylic paints for ours and the paint clothes were beautifully coloured with hard work by the end of the week!

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

KiwiCo Review: Kiwi Crate for 5-8 year olds – KALEIDOSCOPE PUZZLES

Creative homeschool STEM fun with the Kiwi Crate Kaleidoscope box learning about reflections and symmetry.

WHAT IS IN THE KALEIDOSCOPE PUZZLE BOX?

The mathematics focus for this box is learning about symmetry. What I love about KiwiCo is how engaging they make learning about maths and how easy they make it for kids to understand. Both the comic strip and the projects explore symmetry and shapes hands on fun through art and mirrors!

The main engineering build for this box is making a kaleidoscope. We’ve made one with a kit previously but had issues with it coming loose and spilling it’s sparkling contents over the floor! KiwiCo have avoided this issue by having clear plastic wheels that get pinned on (and can get easily swapped out); there are two special sticker sheets provided with numerous colours and shapes so that kids can design their overlapping patterns.

The second project (art and maths) involves experimenting with the mirror book to see what shapes and patterns you can make by shifting the mirror book between 30′, 45′, 60′, and 90′ angles. Encourage children to identify the shapes that are being made (i.e. a square vs pentagram) and to count the number of reflections, points, sides, etc. The box also comes with pre-cut blank shapes and markers so that children can experiment with their own designs! It’s also large enough to accommodate small toys for extra fun!

The third project explores logic and visual discrimination by trying to replicate picture puzzle cards using the coloured shapes provided. There is a convenient travel bag included so that kids can also design their own puzzles or pictures on the go!

The Explore magazine also provides ideas for additional ideas for exploring symmetry – handy if you are homeschooling! These include such activities as kite flying, identifying symmetry in nature, making ‘symmetrical socks’, and getting in the kitchen. We opted for pizza for our kitchen activity – which also conveniently let us explore fractions and sharing (division)!

HOW DO I ORDER KIWI CRATE?

This is not a paid review. I spent a lot of time searching the internet to find out more information about the Kiwi Crate and Atlas Crate boxes before deciding to try them and found the blog posts / photos that people shared were really useful!

If you would like to try Kiwi Crate (or one of their other lines), you can receive 50% off your first box by clicking here.

What I like about the Kiwi Crate kits is that they use a combination of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics to explore a concept or idea. There’s no obligation to sign-up in an on-going capacity so it’s easy to tie them in with birthdays / Christmas; the boxes are quite compact so they also store easily in a cupboard for bringing them out on a rainy day. Mind you, this only works if you spot the package on the door-step first – children become quite adept at recognising the green Kiwi Crate box and screaming with delight at it’s arrival!

The boxes are sent randomly so there’s no way to know what will come in the future; however, you can log-in to your account at the start of each month to see what box has been selected. Your box history is kept which means that even if you cancel and then pick-up again the following year they can make sure that you aren’t sent repeats of boxes.

WHAT IS IN A KIWI CRATE?

The Kiwi Crate is aimed at ages 5-8 years. It comes with a copy of the Explore magazine which opens with a fun comic about Steve the Kiwi and his friends. [As a side note, these are made by an American company despite the use of our New Zealand native bird]. These comics are really approachable for younger kids and a great way of exploring the concepts being introduced in a relateable manner.

The Explore magazine provides a range of information on the topic, it might include some simple games or tricks to try at home, and provide ideas for additional crafts / activities using simple materials. It also has a sticker [unique to each box theme] to put on your Kiwi Crate chart.

The box also includes an instruction manual and the materials that you need to build the main craft. Generally, there are two activities to do – one that is more art related, and one that is more mechanical engineering. What makes the kits special, is how well crafted the engineering components are. They really are designed for the intended age group so that they can either build themselves or help assist an adult. There are handy visual images and checkpoints to make sure that things are aligned correctly. There is no super-bonding-fingers-together wood glue to use with these projects (which makes them great for highly sensory children); instead parts come with double sided tape finely engineered on so that you just need to remove the backing strip of paper.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

ExperiSense NZ Review: Exploring Maths through Art Homeschool Box

Shapes and sharing

What is in the ExperiSense NZ Numeracy Art Homeschool Box?

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is the flexibility that it provides for exploring learning through fun, hands-on projects that let you cater for child’s individual learning needs.  There are many different learning styles and not all are catered for by task-orientated repetitive worksheets. For those that are highly visual and hands-on, finding alternative ways to engage in learning concepts is very important.

I purchased the ExperiSenseNZ Numeracy Art box for NZD$25 because it allows key numeracy and mathematics learning concepts to be explored in a fun way by using art. It’s fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs. I also purchased a geoboard for added fun!

The kit comes with a teaching guide for 12 different activities, most of the materials you’ll need for the activities (assuming you’ll have basics like scissors, glue, and felts at home), and a highly convenient plastic storage case!

What age is it suitable for?

I adapted the activities to suit around age 5 years (so Year 1 / KS1). The flexibility of the kit means it’s probably suitable for general primary school (KS1 / KS2) as you can adapt the activities to suit your needs. We did a little on ‘skip counting’ by 2’s but you could just as easily practice higher multiplication tables. There are worksheets for calculating area that we skipped at this stage in our learning. We completely changed the algebra and problem solving activity to tie in with our Amazon Rainforest unit and simply explored colour.

Tip: I loved some of the templates in the kit and simply photocopied them for current use and hope to revisit them in the future. Kits like these are useful because you can revisit them the following year and simply build-on with what you’ve explored in the time since.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

Intersections of art and numeracy (an exploration of colour)

Exploring Venn diagrams through colour (pencil)

This is one of my favourite activities from our ExperiSense NZ homeschool box that explores maths through art.

It’s a way of engaging with Venn diagrams; traditionally, these are used to show the overlap of sets or categories of information but this wonderful visual explanation of them explores the ways that colours mix and overlap. It’s an organic process, reminiscent of the natural world, that removes language barriers and obstacles for those with additional learning needs (such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and autism).

It’s also beautiful, fun, and sensory. It can be used to encourage flexibility and demonstrate how things can be the same-but-different by experimenting with different colour mediums.

Exploring Venn diagrams through colour (Watercolour)

Book Suggestions

A great book to pair with this is Ish by Peter H. Reynolds to demonstrate that perfection in art is not necessary (for those that worry about colouring outside the lines).

The Dot, also by Peter H. Reynolds, which shows how an entire modern art collection can grow from something as simple as a circle.

Also wonderful, are the interactive works of Herve Tullet: Press Here, Mix it Up, and Let’s Play.

How to make beautiful marbled paper with kids

Making beautiful marbled paper is a fun and easy craft to do as a family!

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the way you can be multi-modal and explore areas like science or maths through art. Kids love to learn by being creative and hands on!

This is a fun and easy messy play activity that is cheap to do and makes beautiful decorative paper that you can use for upcycling crafts, making cards or christmas crackers, or to theme in with other activities. This green and yellow design was done to explore Spring and daffodils.

Materials

  • Plain paper (A4 printer paper works great)
  • Shaving foam (cheap is great!)
  • Food colouring / dye (2-3 colours)
  • Large plastic or tinfoil tray
  • Mixing stick (i.e. an iceblock stick or plastic knife)
  • Scraper (i.e. shower squeegee, plastic knife, iceblock stick, hands)

Directions

  1. Spray shaving foam (about an inch deep) to cover a tray at least A4 in size.
  2. Generously drip food colouring onto the foam.
    • Discuss first what colours you will use; it’s a good idea to start with 2-3 colours and build up from there (to avoid eager mixing creating a muddly brown!)
    • Ask younger children to predict what might happen when certain colours are mixed together; i.e. red and yellow (orange); blue and red (purple).
  3. Press the paper firmly onto the foam making sure that all parts of the paper make contact.
  4. Scrape as much foam off the paper as you can.
  5. Leave the paper to dry.

Voila! You have beautiful marbled paper!

Tips

This is an all year round activity, however, you will want to adjust your clean up methods to the season! In summer, consider doing this outside in the warm sun on the grass – hose down your kids afterwards and peg paper to dry on the washing line. In winter, consider doing this in the garage or kitchen on top of a tarpaulin – have paper towels (or a hot shower) ready for clean up and lie paper on a clothes drying rack.

Sensory kids may have different parts of this activity that they like to participate in or watch. It’s a great idea to have some washable toys on hand that can use to play in the shaving foam once you’ve finished with the paper – this may be your kids favourite part! If it’s summer, consider letting them use the left over shaving foam to create a slip’n’slide on the trampoline or a messy ‘snowball’ fight.

Homeschool STEM: How to make your own rope suspension bridge

Make your own Inca Rope Bridge.

What do you do all day when you homeschool?

Well, lots of things really. It also differs so much from family to family. One unifying factor tends to be the freedom and flexibility to embrace a learning style that works for your particular child (or children). We tend to do lots of hands-on project based learning that weaves together different disciplines. This project for instance encompasses literature, world studies, art, engineering, and problem solving.

We flowed down the Amazon River, away from Brazil’s Pantanal and portion of the Amazon rainforest, to Peru with its vibrant surf culture, Cabillitos de Totora, and the towering Andes mountains – historically home to the Inca civilisation. We have a number of resources from documentaries, to Twinkl, to books; one of my favourites is proving to be Inca Discover the culture and geography of a lost civilisation. It’s well laid out, has plenty of pictures and infographics, and (very importantly) it has lots of ideas for easy to complete projects to help develop learning. [My only wish for improvement would be the addition of colour to make it more visually appealing for children].

This particular project references the Inca using rope bridges made of woven grass to cross narrow river canyons (such as the Keshwa Chaca – Quecha Bridge).

Materials

  • A shoebox or similar (We made excellent use of a KiwiCo box!)
  • Yarn or string
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Craft materials for decorating the landscape (such as construction paper, markers, or paint).

Directions

  1. Imagine your box is a deep canyon with a river at the bottom. You can decorate it pretty much however you like (from marker pens, to paint, to showers of glitter). We opted for blue construction paper glued in as the river, and crumbled green construction paper as a mountainous landscape in the distance.
  2. Use a sharpened pencil to create a hole near the top edge of one side of the box (and a matching hole on the other side). I was delighted to find that my Kiwico box width was exactly the length of my pencil which made the whole hole making process delightfully easy! I was happy doing things by eye, but a ruler will come in handy if you’d like to be more exact.
  3. Measure a piece of yarn or string so that it will travel from one hole to the other with length left over at each end. This will form one of your handrails.
  4. Thread the yarn through the hole and secure it with a large double knot. Then thread it through the opposite hole and knot it again (check the tension to ensure it is tight).
  5. For your second handrail, move along the box about the length of your little finger. Make another hole (plus one opposite) so that you can repeat Steps 3 and 4.
  6. Now you’re going to make the bottom of the bridge. Imagine a triangle (base facing the sky). Find the mid-point between two holes, measure down about 5cm, and create a new hole (see photo). Create a matching hole on the opposite side of the box. Thread the string through and knot if off (making sure to keep it taught. I used a pencil on each side to help weight the bridge (twisting to add tension).
  7. The final step is making the sides. Cut lengths of yarn (around 15cm). Tie each length to a handrail, loop it twice around the bottom, continue up to the other handrail, loop it around, and then knot. Techniques will vary; I opted to loop mine back and do two sliding knots on the upward slant of the ‘V’. Repeat this process until have traversed the canyon!

Involving kids…

You can tailor this project to the age and interest of the children involved. A simple way to get them involved is by asking them, ‘What would you make a bridge out of?’ and then talking about their answer (and relating it to the real world if applicable – easy to do if they say wood, stone, or steel, trickier if they say marshmallow clouds!).

Ask them at each stage of the process what else they think the bridge needs. After explaining that the first piece of yarn is a handrail, they will hopefully start thinking about the other hand and the feet!

Give them a couple of toys to test the bridge as it is built. Explain that testing designs is an important part of engineering. They may well delight in seeing the figures plummet to the depths below and swim to shore to try again. We found the best ‘to scale’ figure was a Playmobil child crossing the river to meet a grazing Peruvian llama at home in its Andean highlands.

KiwiCo Review: Kiwi Crate for 5-8 year olds – DISC LAUNCHERS

Creative homeschool STEM fun with the Kiwi Crate Disc Launchers box and learning about physics through play!

WHAT IS IN THE DISC LAUNCHER BOX?

The science for this box is learning about physics and inertia. What I love about KiwiCo is how engaging they make learning about physics and how easy they make it for kids to understand. The comic strip for this box features the regular characters having wagon races with their soft toys – when one of the wagons is stopped by a rock, the stuffed bunny goes flying! They learn that not only is inertia a resistance to a change in force – movement – but also that seat-belts are really important protective features.

The Explore magazine gives lots of fun ideas of ways to explore inertia at home – from attempting the ‘pull tablecloth from beneath a plate’ magic trick, to watching what happens when you stop your own wagon suddenly. We found that we could easily repeat the concepts in the comic strip by using Lego vehicles and mini-figures, or by putting little balls into one of our HotWheels that looks like a supermarket trolley.

The main engineering build for this crate is building a Disc Launcher (reminiscent of a clay bird launcher) and there are enough materials to build two of these. There are a heap of wooden discs to launch, and these can also be used for homeschool activities as counting, coins, and whale food.

The disc launcher comes with ideas for games – such as knocking down skittles (rainbow ones included) or playing a version of curling using the scoring mat (included).

The secondary project (art) is using your imagination to make things out of air dry clay (pack included). We used the three colours provided (red, yellow, blue) to make archways, a goalie, and lots of multi-coloured balls. We found that we could get cool multi-coloured swirling colours when lightly combining and a sort-of purple when they were really thoroughly mixed. Our creations then created a kind of obstacle course for the disc launcher. It’s worth noting that air dry clay starts as a very soft malleable material; after 24 hours drying it could readily be played with but was also still able to be changed into new forms. You may want to give it a full week to dry and harden (if the kids are willing to wait that long).

HOW DO I ORDER KIWI CRATE?

This is not a paid review. I spent a lot of time searching the internet to find out more information about the Kiwi Crate and Atlas Crate boxes before deciding to try them and found the blog posts / photos that people shared were really useful!

If you would like to try Kiwi Crate (or one of their other lines), you can receive 50% off your first box by clicking here.

What I like about the Kiwi Crate kits is that they use a combination of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics to explore a concept or idea. There’s no obligation to sign-up in an on-going capacity so it’s easy to tie them in with birthdays / Christmas; the boxes are quite compact so they also store easily in a cupboard for bringing them out on a rainy day. Mind you, this only works if you spot the package on the door-step first – children become quite adept at recognising the green Kiwi Crate box and screaming with delight at it’s arrival!

The boxes are sent randomly so there’s no way to know what will come in the future; however, you can log-in to your account at the start of each month to see what box has been selected. Your box history is kept which means that even if you cancel and then pick-up again the following year they can make sure that you aren’t sent repeats of boxes.

WHAT IS IN A KIWI CRATE?

The Kiwi Crate is aimed at ages 5-8 years. It comes with a copy of the Explore magazine which opens with a fun comic about Steve the Kiwi and his friends. [As a side note, these are made by an American company despite the use of our New Zealand native bird]. These comics are really approachable for younger kids and a great way of exploring the concepts being introduced in a relateable manner.

The Explore magazine provides a range of information on the topic, it might include some simple games or tricks to try at home, and provide ideas for additional crafts / activities using simple materials. It also has a sticker [unique to each box theme] to put on your Kiwi Crate chart.

The box also includes an instruction manual and the materials that you need to build the main craft. Generally, there are two activities to do – one that is more art related, and one that is more mechanical engineering. What makes the kits special, is how well crafted the engineering components are. They really are designed for the intended age group so that they can either build themselves or help assist an adult. There are handy visual images and checkpoints to make sure that things are aligned correctly. There is no super-bonding-fingers-together wood glue to use with these projects (which makes them great for highly sensory children); instead parts come with double sided tape finely engineered on so that you just need to remove the backing strip of paper.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

KiwiCo Review: Kiwi Crate for 5-8 year olds -MECHANICAL SWEEPER

Creative homeschool STEM fun with the Kiwi Crate Mechanical Sweeper box and learning about baleen whales.

WHAT IS IN THE MECHANICAL SWEEPER CRATE?

This box is all about baleen whales! The main project (engineering) involves building a mechanical floor sweeper with it’s rotating foam ‘teeth’ representing the baleen ‘moustache’ found in the whale’s mouth for filtering krill out of water. What makes it really engaging for kids is the art aspect for the crate.

The second project (art) is creating two watercolour salt art whales. Everything you need is included (from a paint kit to the salt) and the kids can create beautiful textured patterns with salt while learning about molecular bonds. The salt attracts and absorbs the water around it but leaves the coloured pigments behind.

The whales are then attached to the sides of the floor sweeper and Voila! Your baleen whale can now eat the little furry balls (representing phytoplankton and zooplankton) provided with the crate.

There are also ideas included for additional projects using materials at home – like making a baby whale using a paper cup and craft materials.

HOW DO I ORDER KIWI CRATE?

This is not a paid review. I spent a lot of time searching the internet to find out more information about the Kiwi Crate and Atlas Crate boxes before deciding to try them and found the blog posts / photos that people shared were really useful!

If you would like to try Kiwi Crate (or one of their other lines), you can receive 50% off your first box by clicking here.

What I like about the Kiwi Crate kits is that they use a combination of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics to explore a concept or idea. There’s no obligation to sign-up in an on-going capacity so it’s easy to tie them in with birthdays / Christmas; the boxes are quite compact so they also store easily in a cupboard for bringing them out on a rainy day. Mind you, this only works if you spot the package on the door-step first – children become quite adept at recognising the green Kiwi Crate box and screaming with delight at it’s arrival!

The boxes are sent randomly so there’s no way to know what will come in the future; however, you can log-in to your account at the start of each month to see what box has been selected. Your box history is kept which means that even if you cancel and then pick-up again the following year they can make sure that you aren’t sent repeats of boxes.

WHAT IS IN A KIWI CRATE?

The Kiwi Crate is aimed at ages 5-8 years. It comes with a copy of the Explore magazine which opens with a fun comic about Steve the Kiwi and his friends. [As a side note, these are made by an American company despite the use of our New Zealand native bird]. These comics are really approachable for younger kids and a great way of exploring the concepts being introduced in a relateable manner.

The Explore magazine provides a range of information on the topic, it might include some simple games or tricks to try at home, and provide ideas for additional crafts / activities using simple materials. It also has a sticker [unique to each box theme] to put on your Kiwi Crate chart.

The box also includes an instruction manual and the materials that you need to build the main craft. Generally, there are two activities to do – one that is more art related, and one that is more mechanical engineering. What makes the kits special, is how well crafted the engineering components are. They really are designed for the intended age group so that they can either build themselves or help assist an adult. There are handy visual images and checkpoints to make sure that things are aligned correctly. There is no super-bonding-fingers-together wood glue to use with these projects (which makes them great for highly sensory children); instead parts come with double sided tape finely engineered on so that you just need to remove the backing strip of paper.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art