Although a school's science laboratory is the traditional arena for exploration and experimentation, other venues, such as interactive science centers, do exist. For some time now we have been taking advantage of yet another setting: the home. Using simple materials, our students are encouraged to do science experiments with family and friends. The benefits of at-home science activities are many. They increase the time students are thinking about and doing science. Since many of the explorations focus on counterintuitive phenomena, students delight in sharing unexpected outcomes with others. Needless to say, parents love seeing what their children are doing in school.
Quite often the materials needed to investigate physical phenomena at home may be found in the kitchen or workshop. When more specialized equipment is needed, we create a "Lab in a Bag" by packing required materials in a plastic food-storage bag. Using the "lab in the bag" approach, students take home simple materials relating to a given concept in Zip-Loc® bags. Everything needed to investigate phenomena ranging from electromagnetic radiation to Newton's Laws is contained in a single plastic bag.
The "Lab in a Bag" experiments are intended to be engaging, thought provoking, and enjoyable. While fun is not the principle goal of science education, these activities allow students, and their families, to experience science in a less-structured, more playful manner. All activities are designed to be straightforward and materials are chosen with safety in mind. The low-cost nature of the simple equipment used in these kits eliminates worry about loss.
Prior to presenting the students with their first activity, we send a letter home to parents explaining the purpose and nature of the activities. The letter also informs parents that their child will receive credit upon the return of a signed sheet indicating the parents' or guardians' involvement in the activity.
The take home labs may be divided into two categories. The "Lite Science" labs involve short investigations that may be carried out with additional materials found in the home. "Lab in a Bag" experiments require the use of materials packaged by teachers. The following are examples of both types of explorations. We hope you enjoy sharing these activities with your students and their families.