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Chemistry: Solids, Liquids, & Gases Review by Kevin Dayton

By Penny Norman, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 20533
El Sobrante, CA 94820-0533

Chemistry: Solids, Liquids, & Gases is a box kit consisting of a 40-page book and various pieces for simple projects that demonstrate the properties of solids, liquids, and gases. It is directed at children aged 5 to 10.

The book begins with an introduction to matter and an overview of solids, liquids, and gases. For example, the book encourages the student, "Let's play with a liquid - water." By filling a balloon (provided with the kit) with water and squeezing it into various shapes, the student can see that a liquid takes the shape of its container. By filling another balloon with air and comparing it to the first balloon filled with water, the student can see that a gas spreads to fill its container while water drops to the bottom. Students then learn that matter can change its state, sometimes being a solid, or a liquid, or a gas. They use a milk carton (not provided with the kit) to learn about pressure. They use a jar of oil and water and an egg dunked in fresh and salt water to learn about density. And so on.

Additional topics covered in the book include molecules, surface tension, capillary action, making a gas by combining a liquid and a solid, air pressure, determining the volume of solids (called "Archimedes' way" in the book), and saturation. None of the projects require any special skills or specialized equipment. The kit provides materials for some projects, while you need to provide simple household items for other projects.

A blurb about the author in the back of the kit states that Dr. Norman was inspired to "test and revamp science materials for the primary grades" after seeing her own children receive an inadequate and limited exposure to the physical sciences, evidently in public school. I've seen the ScienceWiz kits sold in various children's learning stores, as well as the gift shop at the Lawrence Hall of Science museum at the University of California, Berkeley.

I'm sure the book and kit are interesting enough when implemented in a public school classroom, but they seem especially effective for the home school, where parents and students can participate together in carrying out the projects. In fact, you may want to consider assigning some of the teaching through these projects to Dad. The projects are vivid and will remain in the minds of your children.

This book and kit is a fun and effective way for students to learn about how in Christ all things hold together.

Product Review by Kevin Dayton, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February, 2009