STEM and STEAM are all the rage in schools these days. (STEM aka Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and STEAM as Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics). In recent years, fewer students have been taking up STEM subjects at university and college, and far fewer girls in particular. I worked in education marketing for nearly 11 years and helped develop many fabulous STEM and STEAM resources for schools to encourage more interest at an early age. Flora loves all things engineering (well, taking things apart anyway) so she was hugely enthusiastic when Letterbox Lab * asked if she’d like to try one of their kids science subscription boxes. What did she think?
We’ve enjoyed quite a few kids subscription boxes since I started blogging but this is our first science one. Letterbox Lab is a series of 12 science kits with full instructions, and all of the activities are linked together as a story rather than as a theme. Online resources accompany every box with a how-to video (should you need it) as well as suggestions for further experiments and activities. There are two different versions of Letterbox Lab: the Explore box (for age 6+) and the Investigate box (for age 8+). Both support the primary school curricula of all four regions of the UK, and one off boxes start at £11.00 including P&P.
We were sent the first in the Explore series – so what was inside our Hidden Rainbows box? Hint: kit for three different types of experiments.
- Incredible Inks – including felt tips, chromatography paper, petri dish, smarties, 2 x bottles of salt, 2 x dropper tips, scissors
- Rainbow Glasses – glasses frames, scissors, diffraction grating, 8 x glue dots
- Rainbow Spinners – round discs on cardboard, scissors, pencil, spinning top
- An instruction booklet, a safety sheet, and an Eager Explorer sticker.
These experiments were all about discovering that different coloured inks are made up of different colours mixed together. Flora drew a black line on a strip of chromatography paper (special paper that can separate mixtures) and then put the end of the paper into some salty water.
As the water travelled up the strip, the colours that make up black began to reveal themselves, mainly red and blue in this case. She then tried lots of different colours before coming to the conclusion that dark colours produced better results.
Next, she put some fresh water (no salt) in a petri dish along with a green smartie. After a few minutes, all the dye had come off and she had to test to see if the dye would come up another strip of chromatography paper. It didn’t really work but she got to eat the sweets anyway, so a happy girl.
For the last experiment, Flora had to draw something on chromatography paper first and then see what happened when she dripped salty water on it. We were both rather wowed by the resulting artwork!
These were very straightforward: once she’d coloured in the frames she had to stick the diffraction grating on (for lenses) and then model them. Ta-da – basically looking through prisms for a rainbow effect! From a science point of view, it was about discovering that white light is actually a mix of all the colours of the rainbow.
We had to cut out the three coloured discs and alternate them on the spinning top. I have to say, it was very hard to use the spinning top, perhaps a larger nub on the bottom would have made it easier. But what we discovered was that cyan, magenta, and yellow mixed reflected light to make white. And that faint coloured rings appeared when we spun the black and white disc. Nothing spectacular happened with Flora’s coloured in rainbow disc but it looked pretty 🙂
Flora absolutely LOVED this box. So much so that she decided to create her own scrapbook for this first box, with everything that’s possible to stick in, stuck in. I’ve never seen that level of enthusiasm from her for anything like this before, so I’d say Letterbox Lab is a big hit.
The Explore Hidden Rainbow activities took us about two hours on a rainy Saturday morning, and time certainly flew by while we were having fun. Big thank you to Letterbox Lab for letting us try this one. As Flora’s eight and half, I think
if when we get the second box in the series, we should opt for the Investigate box because it has more extension activities for older children. As Albert Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research.” Who would have guessed salty water could provide so much fun!
* We were gifted this box in exchange for a review but all opinions are our own and this is an honest, unbiased review.