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The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Teaching Tank

By Paul J. Reinbold and David R. Burgess
Captivation, Inc.

153 Regan Lane
Portland, ME 04103

The Teaching Tank™ touts itself as "America's Exciting Hands-On Teaching Aid," and I have to agree. My family was genuinely excited when we received the Teaching Tank Starter Kit in the mail. We immediately opened the kit to find a spiral-bound Volume 1 Discovery Book, a packet of growing crystals, and a "tank." At that point, the "tank" consisted of two pieces of blue plexiglass, with drilled holes, some clear tubing, and some plastic screws. After a bit, we discovered that the "blue" was actually a protective coating on the plexiglass. A bit more searching led us to the assembly instructions printed on the inside of the boxtop. The instructions are labeled "Simple Instructions," and they really are. I only mention them because we initially had some difficulty in finding them. In a matter of minutes, we had the tank assembled and ready to go.

Once assembled, the tank becomes a 12" X 12" test tube easily viewable from all sides. The Volume 1 Discovery Book includes 50 different experiments for a variety of ages. (Note: Discovery Books Volume 2 and 3 are available separately.) Experiments range from color mixing, to density and solubility, to thermal equilibrium. Experiments are described very clearly in the Discovery Book and are complete with pictures. Each set of experiment instructions includes Objectives, Materials, Procedure, Thinking Questions, and Teaching Notes. The notes offer suggestions as well as an explanation of what is happening in the experiment.

At first glance, I was somewhat disappointed that several of the items in the Materials Lists appeared to be items I would not have on hand. However, when I reached Appendix B, I found instructions for making the majority of them myself. Appendix B offers instructions on constructing a Straw Hydrometer, making Red Cabbage Indicator Solution and a Saturated Solution, and making and using a Paper Light Meter as well as other helpful tools required in the experiments. Appendix A breaks down the Materials List alphabetically, listing whether you will find the item locally (ammonia, calculators, talcum powder), in Appendix B (with instructions to make it yourself), or through a scientific supplier (beakers, stirring rods, litmus paper). In the end, the majority of the items were items we had, could make ourselves, or could easily substitute. A few of the experiments were shown using a series of Teaching Tanks™ to compare reactions. We did these experiments using jars instead, with fine results.

The Teaching Tank™ is an excellent scientific resource. Frankly, I'd been lax about doing experiments, and often we would simply read or watch a video. The Teaching Tank™ made it easy for us to complete interesting and memorable experiments. We were also surprised at how versatile the tank was. That Teaching Tank™ is used right side up, upside down, with wire inserts or attached hoses, and many other ways. The creativity in the creation of the many experiments is truly impressive.

If you are looking for a way to add some fun and excitement to your science curriculum, you won't be disappointed with The Teaching Tank™. If you're involved with a co-op or science fair, where several people are likely to be viewing an experiment at once, The Teaching Tank™ is ideal.

Product review by Dena Wood, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, May 2007

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