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This month, our Science Expeditions box from Little Passports was all about solar energy – which is perfect to study during these sunny days of summer.
As always, we started off with the little book that came with the kit, reading the comic and doing the exercises in it. We learned a lot about how solar panels work, and something called the Albedo Effect. (That’s the amount of solar energy something absorbs or reflects).
The first project in the box that my son grabbed was the solar powered car.
It was a little tricky to put it together, and definitely ended up being a 2 person job with the taping needed to get everything into place. A great opportunity arose to talk about electricity and the need to keep the red wires and black wires separate. My son was fascinated by the small solar panel that was needed for this build and I could see him brainstorming ideas on what else he could use it for.
We found some sunshine streaming into the house and gave it a test run. The first thing noticed was that it takes a minute for the sunshine to work its magic – it isn’t like an on-switch. But once it’s charged up, it goes! I advise not doing it on a carpet as the motor isn’t quite strong enough to push the car over that resistance, but on the hardwood or outside on the driveway, that car could travel crazy fast! There was much squealing from younger siblings as they chased around the little vehicle.
Next we made a spectroscope. This tool takes light and separates it into a spectrum of colours. Scientists use them to figure out what the sun and stars in space are made out of because different elements are spread out different wavelengths. It was really interesting to see how various light sources around our house presented different rainbow wave effects. (Remember – NEVER look at the sun directly!)
The last experiment in the box had us learning about Ultraviolet rays. Just off our visible light range at the purple end of the rainbow are ultraviolet rays. Most kids are familiar with the term UV because we warn them about sun burns. This was a great visual for how to protect yourself from the sun’s UV rays. In the kit is a bag of clear beads. After separating them into smaller bags, we thought of different ways that people protect their skin from the sun. Long clothing, hats, sunscreen, hiding in the shade… these were ideas my kids thought of. So off we went, trying our various bead bags with each of these. A control bag went into the sun directly and instantly, those beads went from clear to coloured. We put a bag under a hat, covered one in sunscreen, and put another in the shade. Amazingly, they all worked really well – staying pretty clear, although a few had some slight colouring. The sunscreen was a messy part of the project but demonstrated just what that cream does for our skin. A great visual for kids to see how much the sun actually affects our body.
I hadn’t realized before, but in the box was a website link to some bonus content on the Little Passports’ website. Each box has a special page that offers more tips and facts, videos, and extra notes about the projects – like advice from Aunt Charlie (who is a character in the comic strip) on how to best do your experiments. There are even an extra – like another project or a printable that you can do. This is a great add-on feature, and it really helped my very tech-geeky boy get more out of our kits.
Want your own Science Expeditions subscription? They are designed for kids ages 9+. The cost is $21.95 USD + $5.50 USD shipping to Canada if you pay by the month, or you can go for a year subscription which drops the price to $18.95 USD a month. It’s an annual cost of $227.40 USD+ $66 USD shipping to Canada if you do it that way.
You can find out more and buy a subscription at: https://thecanadianhomeschooler.com/sciencepassports