Thursday, December 11, 2008

Discovery Store: Macro Microscope

I have wanted to buy a microscope for Sam for years. Every Christmas for the past three years or so I have looked at microscopes online and in catalogs to decide what one I should get for him. But every year I've eventually decided that he was too young.

But this year he's seven, and really into learning about science. So I was thrilled when the Discovery Store sent me their Macro Microscope to review.

I've looked at a lot of microscopes and I have to say that after seeing this one in person, I would be delighted to buy it. I really liked that it looks and operates like a "real" microscope. It's not something to be tossed around and played with like a toy. It's a tool to learn things. And have fun while doing it.

The microscope comes with prepared slides as well as materials and instructions on how to prepare your own. I took a photo of all the materials that come with the microscope, but (surprise!) the one on the Discovery Store website was better, so I lifted this from their site:

There's a lot of cool stuff there. The "big deal" slide in the package is the Peruvian mummy wrap slide. Here is some information from the box, if you're curious:

I used this slide to test out the microscope and it was really neat. The microscope features 40x, 100x, and 400x magnification. If you'll pardon my amateurish photography, here is the mummy wrap at 40x:

And here it is at 100x:

Cool, huh?

The microscope is labeled for kids ages 8 and above, and that's probably a good estimate. Sam is seven, and he'll need to be assisted with this. (And no way is it getting left unattended in his bedroom with him, Jack, and Quinn.) But isn't playing with your children and helping them to learn what having kids is all about?

Another feature I like is that the eyepiece is soft so you and your kids won't give yourselves headaches banging into the thing.

Also, the instructions are thorough and give ideas for further experiments.

I can't wait to share all of the fun things we're going to learn about with this microscope. When I showed my husband, the first thing he said was, "The next time someone gets a cut, we can look at their blood!"

If that's not using science to make the world (or a boo boo) better, I don't know what is.

Honesty Clause: The Discovery Store sent me the microscope at no charge. It retails for $79.95.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Discovery Store: Spark Talking Globe

Did you know that the ancient Incas were some of the first to use peanut butter? Did you know that caribou have special fur to keep them warm and that it even helps them float? Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is made of millions of tiny living things, but is so large that it can be seen from space?

Well, my kids and I do, and it is because of the Spark Talking Globe from the Discovery Store.

This fun, colorful toy is supposed to be for kids three and over, but all three of my kids (up to age 7) enjoyed playing with it.

There are lots of neat features to the globe. Kids can choose to learn facts about countries, continents, and cultures from ten different categories. The easy-to-use slider lets the user choose from facts about animals, sights, food, ideas, festivals, sports, music, national anthems, languages, and clothes.

Once a category is selected, the child spins the globe and touches a part of the world. Wherever they touch, the cheerful animated bear narrator rattles off the name of the continent and a fun fact. The small screen displays simple pictures that complement the fact.

The facts are simple enough to stand on their own, but could also form a basis for you and your child to go research and learn together. Once you hear about the Great Barrier Reef, maybe your child would like to see pictures on the internet, for example.

I like that the globe is an easy way to teach young kids very basic facts about the geography of the earth that they live on. Because the globe features only continents and not countries, it is uncluttered and simple to teach.

There are so many enticing toys from the Discovery Store. You are sure to find something there for everyone on your holiday list. This is a great option for kids just getting excited about their world.

Plus, where else are your kids going to learn that Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest volcano in the world?

Honesty Clause: The Discovery Store gave me the Spark Talking Globe for free. It retails for $49.95.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Emotes Giveaway

Well, I know you've been on the edge of your seat just waiting to find out who won our good friend Ick.

Congratulations, LeAnne, who commented fourth. LeAnne, your profile is blocked, so I don't know how to reach you. Please email me (stimeyland at gmail dot com) with your address so I can mail Ick to you. (Because who doesn't want a little Ick in the mail?

If I don't hear from LeAnne by this Saturday or so, I'll pick another name. Thanks for your comments!

Monday, December 1, 2008

32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny

I recently read 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons From Teaching, by Phillip Done, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The word I wanted to use over and over to describe it to myself was "delightful." And when I was done with that word, I wanted to use the word "charming."

And when I was done with those two words, I wanted to use the sentence, "This is the perfect teacher gift!"

This quick and fun book was a joy to read—and evocative too. As soon as I read that Done considers "I can touch the paper cutter," to be one of the boons of teaching, I instantly flashed back to elementary school and the paper cutter than every student was forbidden to go near.

As a former student, I loved this book. As a parent to children in elementary school, I wanted to enroll my kids at Done's school. Done has taught for 20 years and has won the Schwab Foundation Distinguished Teacher Award. He also was nominated for the Disney Teacher of the Year Award. And just from reading his words, it is easy to see why.

Although his story about almost being killed by the school's laminating machine makes one wonder. But it'll make you laugh too.

Done writes the way I hope that I come across. His self-deprecating prose is funny and genuine. And while he makes gentle fun of his charges, he easily lets his intense love for them and his joy for teaching seep through the pages.

We should all be so lucky to have a Mr. Done in our or our children's lives. At the very least we can read this lovely book to catch some of his spirit.

Honesty Clause: I received this book for free. The hardcover retails for $19.95. It is currently on sale for $13.57 at Amazon.