Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Explore the Wonders of Nature

Explore the Wonders of Nature

Spring 2013 Toys
Ages: 5 & Up
Price: $19.99

The Magic School Bus "Explore the Wonders of Nature" Young Scientists Club kit includes a guidebook and many of the materials needed to try numerous activities for outdoor investigation. Each activity is guided by the fictional Ms. Frizzle and her students. Although the supplies included in the kit are inexpensive, and could mostly be found at home, it is convenient to have them collected in one place; many other materials are needed from around the home, but our testers had no trouble finding what was required.

The real value in the kit comes from the guidebook. Activities included building a bug house, soaking the shell off an egg, pressing flowers, rubbing leaves, and making an ant farm, among many others. The manual provides in depth scientific discussion appropriate for ages 8 and up, but younger children can do the activities and learn from them, too.

Our tenacious science testers were concerned that the manual identifies "activities" as "experiments." Minimally, the scientific method calls for a hypothesis and a control group. Here, the learning activities simply pose a question as the start of a learning activity. For example, "What will make a good bug house?" is followed by a list of components and instructions for one bug house, not a comparison of different materials or colors. "Why would pressing flowers preserve them longer?" is an interesting question but does not answer itself in the activity; pressing flowers may indicate that this will, indeed, preserve them, but it does not answer the "why." Yes, they reported, the solutions page at the end of the manual answers the questions, but real experiments must follow protocol.

That said, this is a solid jumping-off point for exploring the outdoor world. The reasonably priced kit, well designed guidebook and activities delivered hours of exploration. And with summer vacation fast approaching, this will be a fun way to avoid the summer slide.

Parents' Choice   ©2013 Parents' Choice

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