The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Junk Drawer Engineering Review by Melissa Williamson

25 Construction Challenges That Don’t Cost a Thing
Bobby Mercer
Chicago Review Press
814 North Franklin Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610

I enjoy science but often feel inadequate teaching it because projects and experiments are overwhelming to me. I need a lot of hand-holding and direct instruction for this particular subject area. Junk Drawer Engineering: 25 Construction Challenges that Don’t Cost a Thing was one of the few science resources I have been excited about in a long time, and I was not disappointed as we began to use it.

The premise behind this little book is to put the science behind engineering into understandable concepts for all ages. Preschoolers through adults will learn engineering science and maybe even some practical mathematical applications along the way. The materials needed for each project are incredibly inexpensive, and you more than likely already have them around your house, maybe even your junk drawer as the title suggests.

The user-friendly format is perfect for those of us who feel intimidated by science-related activities. The book is divided into the topics of energy, structures, and waves. Each section has a short, down-to-earth explanation of the concept which will be further explored with the projects. This introduction is immediately followed by multiple projects and experiments to aid in a deeper understanding of the concept. There is also a glossary at the end in the back with a list of 23 engineering terms used throughout the book.

The projects and experiments are very easy to understand. Under the title of each one is the main objective of the activity. Immediately following this is a list of needed and optional supplies in a checklist format. Next, step-by-step instructions are coupled with clear, black-and-white photographs to aid in understanding. After completing the project, the science behind it is fully explained, again in easy-to-understand terminology. Following this, you will find age-appropriate modifications and applications. Preschoolers and young elementary students will definitely need help as some of the structures will need to be built in very specific ways for which they may not have the skills to complete. There are also a few projects which are said to be best suited to older students.

My oldest daughter, who is 11, was particularly excited about this as she is always intrigued by creating and inventing. I felt very comfortable handing her the book and allowing her to build on her own. One of the projects she built was a catapult from rubber bands, popsicle sticks, and a plastic spoon. She completed this rather quickly and then read the scientific explanation. She then created her own version using the same applications learned from the first. She was able to explain to me what she learned about potential energy, force, torque, levers, and more from this very simple building project.

One thing I appreciate about this book is that while it is not a Christian resource, it sticks to observational science. It also brings each concept into a larger perspective. My daughter learned what torques and levers have to do with door hinges after building her catapult. Each activity could easily be completed by an individual student in your home, but could also be completed on a larger scale with multiple students.

Students will find out just how much fun engineering can be while using problem-solving, observation, and math to learn new concepts. I am looking forward to the many creations which will be made as a result of this book and even more so the concepts my daughters will learn.

-Product review by Melissa Williamson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2017