Last year a few readers started asking what we thought of MEL Science, a UK-based company that puts together subscription chemistry kits.
My eldest child is now 11 and since we began his education we have primarily focused on Nature Study at home using Exploring Nature with Children. (During the 24 weeks of the year that we are in Classical Conversations, we enjoy an experiment or project each week on community day and do some further reading about the topic at home). Those early years spent heavily immersed in nature study have led my older children to the point where they are now ready and asking questions about the higher sciences, specifically chemistry. This is largely because of last year’s Cycle 3 study of chemistry and our reading of this wonderful book: The Mystery of the Periodic Table.
I am an extremely intentional person. I love to imagine things for our homeschool and then find practical ways to bring them into being. I am usually successful with most subjects but I must be honest and say that these last two years the higher sciences have taken a back seat. This is because in order to do science, you must gather materials and the gathering of materials for science experiments keeps falling off my very full plate. I am already busy material gathering for HGP, CC and ASD therapies and other homeschool projects, and gathering materials for extra science (when we already do experiments at CC) did not feel crucial or necessary.
But my boys were curious and excited and are still unable to drive anywhere to gather their own materials. They wanted science projects ready to go on a reliable schedule. They didn’t want to have to wait for an adult to gather everything before they could do a chemistry experiment. They also wanted REAL CHEMISTRY and not a plastic kit for children to pretend with. Real chemistry means real danger and real possibility and real responsibility. They wanted the real deal. As my eldest said, “Mom, I want to find something more dangerous than a potato battery or an egg in a glass of coke.” A brief look at the MEL Science site told me this was the real deal.
Our first Mel Science kit was organized into several boxes. The first was the starter kit which contained all of the equipment needed for future experiments. A VR cardboard set, glass instruments, phone stand, safety goggles and more were included. There were also two separate small kits that housed experiements grouped by topic. Each kit came with enough material to do (and repeat) several experiements on that topic. The kits were all marked with warning labels and safety instructions which pleased the boys immensely. We downloaded the MEL Science app and were excited to find a new tool for conducting further research beyond the experiements themselves.
Our favorite of the two themes was the TIN bundle. We opened the box and were relieved to find such clear and concise instructions, coupled with very thorough safety warnings. The kit included gloves for us to use and we were able to transfer all of our chemicals safely.
The first experiment “Tin Dendrites” packed quite a punch. We used VR to gain a different look at the components and followed along on our Mel Science App as we conducted the experiment. We also used the special camera lenses included in the starter kit to watch the dendrites stretch across the petri dish. (THRILLING!) While I did remain at his side, my son was able to do almost the entire experiment on his own- which thrilled him! Our first run through was full of questions and stops and starts. A few days later he repeated the experiment and this time he was full of explanations.
The second experiment in the kit “Tin Hedgehog” was beautiful! Never thought I would say that about a chemistry project, but there you have it. It was truly lovely. The boys (all ages) were fascinated by the end result and so sad to find out they couldn’t keep it forever. But of course, they learned even more about the properties of Tin when they found out why they could not keep it forever.
When I read the warning labels on the experiments I was a bit concerned about how to safely dispose of everything, but when we reached the end of the experiment on the app we found a guide for safe disposal of those specific materials. We were also able to do further reading and research on the app which was an unexpected bonus!
We are really looking forward to this next year with MEL Science and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on how its going!