Saturday, September 17, 2011

TOS Product Review: AIMS Education Foundation

For the past month or so, we have been using Electrical Connections, an activity guide by AIMS Education Foundation.  AIMS stands for "Activities Integrating Math and Science", and in my opinion they have accomplished that task nicely with this book.  As excited as my two sons were to rip open the Fed Ex box and see what sort of things they were going to be able to charge, light up or (if they had it their way) explode, I for one, was a little hesitant in my ability to guide them through the activities.  I am a literature nerd, an artsy type, a sit under the tree and read Shakespeare kinda girl.  I spent most of my middle school science class dreaming about Kirk Cameron (LOL), and what I know today is only from watching alot of Jeopardy.

However, these lessons aren't written for those who are already mad scientists.  They are written for grades 4-6.  They make it easy for you to prepare and execute some pretty neat experiments with your students.  The book is divided  into a few sections:  Static Electricity, Circuits, Electromagnetism, and the History of Electricity, which includes some biographies and time lines.  Most sections have between 6 and 10 activities to perform.  But before you begin getting out your wires and paper clips, have the student read the short foldable book in the beginning of each section to familiarize themselves with the new topic.  The books are printed in quadrants, designed so that you can fold them into booklets.  Just attach them at the "spine" with a rubber band and they are ready to read!  They are very kid-friendly with cartoons that illustrate the point but don't seem too babyish.  The teacher section is well laid out, explaining the objectives, background information, listing the materials needed, step-by-step instructions and thought-provoking wrap-up questions that guide the students from beginning to end.  As long as you gather the materials in advance, there is not alot of preparation on the part of the teacher. 

The first third of the book requires only household items like Saran wrap, paper clips, string, foil, etc.  Once you get to the section on circuits, you will have to purchase a few items such as batteries, wires, bulbs and alligator clips.  These are all available through the AIMS website.  However, I just took my book to the local hardware store and they were able to help me out.  Stores like Home Depot or Lowe's would also have most of these items, but I found that Ace Hardward sells alot of the wires I needed by the foot, so I only paid for what I needed. 

My two sons, 4th and 6th grade, LOVED the "Static Strokes" experiment.  They had to charge a piece of plastic wrap with a paper towel and see which items would be attracted to it.  It was pretty amazing to see the salt dancing all over the table to fly up and stick to the plastic wrap.  Several of their predicted outcomes were proven false, which I liked because it kept them engaged. 

Experimenting with salt and static electricity.  This was very cool.

Every activity has a record sheet prepared for your student to keep track of their outcomes.

The other experiment that we've done so far is "Conductor or Insulator?"  This was another big hit, discovering which items conduct electricity.  They got to graduate from household items, to bulbs, D-cell batteries and wires for this one!  Again, another simple scientific concept broken into manageable bits of information and hands-on experiences for children.  Some other opportunities for exploration are:  Fiddling with Filaments, Making a Dimmer Switch, The Click Heard Around the World (Samuel Morse), Make a Galvanometer, How to Make an Electric Motor and many, many more!

I really appreciated the CD in the pocket at the back of the book.  The CD contains all the book's pages for easy printing, so you don't have to stand at the copier and print them one at a time.  I also liked that the writers suggest substitutes for things you may not have at home, like paper clips instead of alligator clips, or modeling clay to hold something in place.  Frugal moms like it when we can "make do" with things we already own. 

This title sells for $24.95 through the AIMS website here.  In the past, I have paid more money for products with much less "meat" than Electrical Connections.  I think it is definately a  fair value and has enough projects to keep the average homeschooling family busy for at least half of the school year.  If you take the suggestions of the guide and incorporate more in-depth reading about Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla, you could expand upon this topic to your heart's content. 

I would definately purchase other titles from AIMS to help bring Math and Science alive in our homeschool.   We were extremely happy with this product.

**Disclaimer:  I was provided with a copy of Electrical Connections in exchange for an honest review, which I have provided here.


Jennifer said...

Great review! I love to see what other crew members say about the same product that I reviewed. This was a fun one!

I'm also a new follower of your blog.

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