Monday, November 5, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Activity Bags

I am absolutely thrilled to have had the opportunity to review Activity Bags over the last few weeks.  These e-books by Sherri MacLean are chock-full of step-by-step instructions for fun, hands-on learning activities for kids of all ages.

I first reviewed Math Games In a Bag, eBook 1.  Have you ever noticed how kids say they "hate" Math when they are stuck with drills to do in a workbook, but how much they love using math concepts in games?  (It's a common theme on this blog!)  The games in this eBook - which are designed for elementary school children - use dice, playing cards, printables, and household materials to explain math concepts and to give your blossoming mathematician plenty of drill practice in an entertaining way.  Most of the games are designed for 2 or more people, so they can be played by several children or by the parent/teacher and the child, if your home is not full of kids.  I started using things I had around the house, like dice and cards from games we already have, but I plan to buy some manipulatives like that to put in the bags and make them permanent fixtures, so that I do not have to disassemble the math activity kits to put the game pieces back.  These activity bags can be used over and over for more fun and practice and are a great way to occupy my younger children while I'm working on something with the older ones.

In addition, I reviewed Science Experiments In A Bag: eBook 1, eBook 2, and eBook 3.  These books serve as an introduction to General Science for young students, to get children curious and wanting to learn.  As shown on the covers, eBook 1 contains Science experiments in the fields of Biology, Nature, and General Science.  Ebook 2 contains experiments in Chemistry, Human Body, and General Science.  Ebook 3 is all about Chemistry.  The experiments use household items or items that are easy to obtain.  Some of the experiments were specifically indoor or outdoor experiments - and that was noted in the instructions - and some could be done in either place.

As the name suggests, the idea behind all of the Activity Bags books is that the teacher organizes all the supplies for each activity in ziploc bags ahead of time.  Step-by-step instructions and supply lists are provided, and the eBooks contain reproducible pages to accompany the activities (in the Science activities, I am using the reproducibles as our lab reports for our lab notebooks).  There are questions to accompany the activities, and answer sheets for the teacher.  This does require some preparation time ahead of time.  Once the bags are prepared, however, you have ready-to-do lessons, games, and experiments at your fingertips.  They can be used for regular class time or as a supplement to pull out on a rainy day or when one student needs something to keep him busy while you finish with the others or while you pay bills or fold laundry.

The other thing that makes Activity Bags unique is the Swap.  Several of the books contain detailed instructions for planning an Activity Bags Swap, and that information is also found in the Coordinator Handbook (listed separately).  This is a great activity for homeschool groups.  Each mom/teacher is assigned one or two experiments to prepare.  She may then buy needed items in bulk, copy her reproducibles, and assemble 10, 15, or 20 bags for that one activity.  At the Swap, members trade so that each receives Activity Bags for all the activities assigned.  This is a quick way to get enough Science experiments lined up for an entire school year!

I have enjoyed using these books with my own kids, and I am preparing Science Activity Bags for all the students attending our Mad Scientist party this coming Friday!  I like the fact that most of the items used in the experiments are easily accessible, and I like the organization these books give me.  I like the games and experiments themselves for being both fun and educational, and the fact that I can make the experiments actually work even though I'm not much of a scientist myself!  The books are designed for elementary students, and I am just using the Math with my younger children, but I am using the Science experiments with all my kids.  The books serve as a good supplement so that I can find experiments to match what we are doing in our other curriculum, for any age.  The younger children are amazed and curious about the experiments, while the older children can actually understand the Science behind them and write up lab reports.  I did not find the activities to be as much of a do-it-on-your-own type of thing as I had expected.  For the most part, I am doing the activities with my kids, or sometimes the older kids may be able to do them with the younger ones.  The Math games were generally games to be played by 2 or more people, so the younger children need an older child or me.  The Science experiments were, for the most part, things that I would prefer to still supervise for elementary-aged children.  This is not a bad thing, however, since I am enjoying them so much!

I don't know if you can tell in this picture or not, but we managed to coat this steel paper clip with copper.  Wow!

If you would like to try out some of these activities, go to and fill out a quick survey.  You will receive a complimentary Activity Bags sampler as a thank-you!

I highly recommend Activity Bags eBooks to anyone who homeschools or works frequently with kids. Here is the info:

Product:  Activity Bags eBooks
Science Experiments in a Bag ebook 2 
Science Experiments in a Bag ebook 3
Author:  Sherri MacLean
Ages:  Elementary students (Science experiments are K-8 but can really be used with any age.)
Price:  $15 per eBook (Science Experiments 1 and 2 can be bundled for $27, or all 3 for $39)

To see what my Crewmates thought of these and several other Activity Bags eBooks, click the banner below:

Disclaimer:  I received four Activity Bags eBooks free of charge in exchange for an impartial review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

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