Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Exploratopia

If you've ever had a chance to go to the Exploratorium in San Francisco, you know what a magical thing science can be.  The Exploratorium's curators, educators, and scientists have created exhibits that draw you in and keep you interested.

The book Exploratopia might be the next best thing to visiting the museum itself.  It's my favorite experiment book because the text is interesting, it doesn't talk down to kids, and it's filled with experiments about everyday things kids are fascinated with already-- like the toilet and ants!

The book begins with an explanation of the "Tools for Exploration," a sort of primer for how to think like a scientist.  This is not just the scientific method, but also things like "Paying attention to stuff a lot of people ignore."  Periodically, these tools are revisited in the experiments.

The rest of the book is divided into three major sections: Exploring Yourself (experiments about your senses and brain), Exploring Interesting Places (experiments you can do from the kitchen, to the backyard, to the amusement park or beach), and Exploring Interesting Stuff (experiments about more conventional topics like light and sound and less conventional ones like music and money).

Each experiment has a section for what you need, what to do, and "What's going on?" with additional sidebars providing related information and exploration ideas.  The illustrations are a mixture of photography and colorful drawings.

So if you've ever wondered what would happen if you substituted Vaseline for oil in a spice cake, how sounds echo in your toilet, how to shrink a friend, or what you can find with a magnet at the beach, this is the book for you!  It would make an excellent gift for a curious child and a great "spine" for a homeschooling family looking for science curriculum.  Although many of the experiments could be completed by a younger child, it's best suited for independent readers ages eight and up.

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