Friday, November 21, 2008

Hand-held microscopes

A few years ago I bought this pocket microscope (NOT the ones pictured)for ds#1. It broke the first time he used it. Home Training Tools replaced it, but not long after the lens in the replacement became dislodged.

My boys are not very gentle with things; in fact, they are down right rough and careless despite my warnings. I decided to stick to a pocket loupe magnifying glass with a 10x magnification.

The kids are a couple of years older now, and they do like to use the microscope. I know they would really enjoy a pocket microscope to bring on our nature walks. After Laura's question and with Christmas coming I decided to do a little looking.

I suggest getting one with illumination otherwise you will see very little without bright sunlight or someone else holding a flashlight. I was pleasantly surprised to find several models that had up to 100x magnification with very affordable prices. Do they really magnify to 100x though? I am sure the optics are mediocre quality; still, these are something MY three boys will be carrying around in the woods.

I am deciding between the 100x Pocket Microscope from Home Science Tools for $13.95 (top picture) with the detachable (read: prone to be lost) base for viewing slides or the MicroMax 100x from Edmund Scientific for $14.95. I am leaning toward the latter because it is smaller especially for little hands. The slide-viewing attachment is a nice feature, but since we have a microscope we don't really need it.

Edmund Scientific has a variety of models, like a less expensive 30x model and some pen microscopes. Also I found a 30x loupe for $4.70. It has no illumination but it likely has better quality optics, so in the long run it may be the best value. Just don't leave it in the sun...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Living Science Series: Williamson's Kids' Can! books

For upper elementary and early middle school kids, I really like books from the Williamson's Kids' Can! series, which incidentally has much more than science titles.

Click on any of the book covers to see them at

While the series has several nature titles, I particularly like their physical science books. These books are divided into sections with several fairly easy experiments to choose from, plus just enough background, vocabulary, and concept explanation (often missing in pure experiment books) to make these not quite spines yet much more than topic books. You could easily build a year's worth of science around each of these titles.

It looks like Super Science Concoctions has been released in a new format, so I've included both covers. I don't know if all these books will have their format changed; so long as the contents don't change much, I am glad they continue to be published.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cheap customizable dice

While browsing through our local Michael's store, I came across these in the woodcraft section and I immediately thought, "Wow, 24 6-sided dice for $4 that I can customize!"

They come in larger and smaller sizes, too. (Kids gravitate to unusual sizes.)

This has endless math applications, and I am sure I can think of some science ones, too. Maybe something with elements on it? Please comment if you create something interesting!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Backyard finds--downey woodpeckers

We are having major repairs done on our house, so we have a large dumpster in our driveway, along with lots of other eye-catching things (my MIL says it looks like someone bombed the place, LOL.)

During school the other morning, my boys' eyes could not be helped but be drawn to these male and female downy woodpeckers checking out the wood debris in the dumpster.

They are such striking birds! I of course suspended whatever school work we were doing at the moment to get the camera. I shot these moments before they flew away for good, and we have not seen them since.