If you home school your kids or are simply looking for fun and interactive ways to encourage your kids to love STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) then lab equipment can make a real impact.
Of course learning about the theory behind scientific principles is certainly a fundamental aspect of the learning process. Yet gaining practical experience and insight through the use of scientific equipment can really help kids gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the subject. This is especially important for very complex principles that require abstract thinking.
So what kind of laboratory equipment can you easily use at home?
A Light Microscope
Today, light microscopes can be purchased for a very reasonable price. To begin, kids are likely to find a basic stereo microscope easiest to use, but having said that a compound microscope is of most benefit.
The reason for this is that compound microscopes offer a greater magnification than stereo microscopes and so can be used to see much smaller objects, such as animal and plant cells, bacteria and biological tissues.
The best thing about a light microscope is that it can be used for a wide variety of different science experiments. They are also routinely used in the science and medical fields, so it’s certainly a useful skill to learn that will be helpful for any budding scientist.
Glass slides are used routinely in a wide range of science fields, so being able to prepare a glass slide correctly is certainly a worthy skill to master. There are two main ways to prepare a glass slide; one method is called a dry mount that is more appropriate for large, simple specimens. The other is called a wet mount, which is more appropriate for sensitive specimens such as bacteria.
With practice, preparing glass slides is a very simple process and only requires a few materials. This includes affordable items such as cover slips, glass slides, tweezers and tissue paper.
This skill also gives you the opportunity to make a wide variety of original and fun specimen samples to observe under a microscope. Although, if you don’t fancy the idea of making your own, you will find that most microscopes today come accompanied with a selection of pre-made slides.
Maybe this isn’t one for the faint hearted, but dissection kits are routinely used in schools, so why not at home too? Dissection kits come with everything required to perform a dissection on a wide variety of different animal species including surgical scissors, forceps and scalpels.
The majority of suppliers also offer dissection specimens too. These typically come vacuum sealed and include the likes of frogs, fish, rats and other small mammals. Of course, this activity does require the supervision of an adult at all times, but it’s certainly a great way for kids to learn about anatomy, organs, tissues and biological systems.
This is a great resource full of dissection tutorials to do with kids.
Germ theory and the world of microorganisms can’t truly be appreciated in all its glory until you have experienced growing your very own colonies. Microbiology kits allow children to grow, count and observe a wide variety of different microbes including yeast, bacteria and fungi.
They are also a great way to learn and practice valuable laboratory practices including aseptic technique, gram staining, agar preparation and cell counting. If you also own a light microscope you can even observe and identify the bacteria or microbes under the microscope. This is a great way to create a realistic laboratory experience that is sure to benefit any child’s scientific education.
Enzymes & Digestion Kits
Learning about different food groups and the enzymes that break them down is an important biological lesion. The main enzymes include lipase, amylase and protease, which are responsible for breaking down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
A digestion and enzyme kit allows kids to see these powerful enzymes at work and use various chemical tests to detect how effective they are at breaking particular substances down.
Kits like this are ideal for groups and allow kids to gain a good understanding of how to read and follow scientific instructions. Again, parental supervision is essential for experiments like this, as some of the chemicals used are potentially hazardous.
Blood Type Testing
Learning about the principles of blood typing and testing can be an incredibly complex principle for young minds to grasp. But by actively testing for different blood groups including ABO and Rh, kids can really gain a better understanding of this often complex biological system works.
There are many blood testing kits available at incredibly affordable prices. They are often themed around “crime science investigation” so provide that fun edge to keep it interesting.
Learning science doesn’t have to be pure theory and text book learning. There is lots of fun to be had with all of the home laboratory equipment available today.
Not only are these a great way to keep kids engaged in the learning process, but they can help simplify some very often complicated scientific principles.
Better still, many of the techniques and principles employed are actually practical skills that are used in the science fields on a routine basis. Therefore, not only will your child be putting theory into practice, but will also be gaining some very useful skills applicable to the real world.