Monday, July 13

Host a STEM Camp @ Home with the Creator Lab! {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
Like so many families around the nation, all of our summer camps were cancelled this summer.  Which was a huge bummer for the kids...especially the one who thrives on being around people and getting that hands-on experience...  

Fortunately, just as our last camp opportunity was cancelled, we were asked to check out the Middle School STEM Creator Pack from Pitsco Education.  After looking at the kit itself, we decided to break it down into five days of fun and make our own STEM summer camp right here at home!

The Middle School STEM Creator Pack comes with everything that you need to create five projects, all the way down to the scotch tape.  The kits are considered consumable and created for one student, but we found that a couple of them had enough supplies to be used with two students (or for one student to use twice).

Five days, five projects.  It was perfect math!  Projects in this kit include:
  • Catapult
  • Balloon Car
  • Da Vinci Bridge
  • Friction Climber
  • Invention

Within each project are three separate challenges.  The student builds the project, following step-by-step instructions, and then uses the project booklet to complete each challenge.  Design and conceptual questions are posed, charts are provided, and the student is encouraged to think beyond the basic scope to see what else can be discovered.  The scientific principle isn't taught, but is reinforced through the layout of the booklets.

Each kit comes with age-appropriate instructions that are printed in full color and with lots of pictures.  This was one of my favorite aspects because it was so well-done that our special needs middle schooler was able to complete nearly all of the work without any help at all!  As an added bonus to the physical kit, if you happen (like us) to have a little "Not Me" roaming about your home who misplaces things, it's easy to get replacement instructions for free online.

Our Week of Summer STEM Camp

On Monday, we built catapults.  Then we shot beads all across the kitchen and tried to duck and weave to avoid them on the receiving end!

Within each of the project booklets are easy-to-follow instructions, thinking questions, design challenges, and charts for recording data so that your student can fiddle around with the design (that's a technical term, y'all) and see how small changes have large impacts.

Each project booklet also has a bonus challenge.  In this instance, we're trying to catapult objects over a Jenga game.  One aspect my son really enjoyed was the bullet points, or spotlights.  These are circles of information - history, science, or pop-culture based - dotted around the booklets to give some fun background on the project at hand.

On Tuesday, we built friction climbing ladders.  He had some difficulty with this project, but it was because of manual dexterity issues.  As you can see in the first photo, each project includes all of the materials you'll need to complete it...string, tape, the dowel.  You might need to supply a pair of scissors, or use the tape from another project in the box, but you won't be hunting around digging up supplies!

Oh Wednesday....this was a heart-breaking day.  See above for issues with manual dexterity.  This was supposed to end up as a Da Vinci Bridge, but he just didn't have the ability to pull it off.  The directions are clear.  The pieces are provided.  And mom even stepped in to assist.  But this was probably the most difficult project in the box, so we watched some videos on this type of bridge and set the pieces aside for another year.

Thursday, on the other hand, was a BLAST!  Having just watched the movie Ford vs. Ferrari, he's really into race cars this week.  He colored and cut out car models -- here he's racing Ford and Chevy trucks -- assembled the wheels and axles, and went to town blowing up balloons to power the cars.  He spent most of the day running different tests and racing the cars with different types of power.
Friday was Create-Your-Own-Invention day.  Inspired by one of the photos in the project booklet, and the performers at the Tran-Siberian Orchestra concert, he designed a lift for his rock star minifigure.  Then, naturally, we had to have a concert!  

While our son wasn't able to easily complete all of the projects, I do believe that they are all wonderful ideas that the vast majority of middle schoolers would be able to do without issue.  (He just happens to have motor skills delays.)  Whether for a hands-on element alongside your science curriculum, or to keep students occupied during large periods of down time, this is a wonderful addition to any middle schooler's curriculum.

And, Pitsco wants you to have a chance to experience the Middle School STEM Creator Pack, too!  They're giving another set/kit away now!  Just enter on their site before August 31 for your chance to win.

See what others are saying about Pitsco Education at the Homeschool Review Crew!

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