Reviewed by Travis Presley and his 10 year-old grandson, Travis Pilarcik
This Kitchen Chemistry kit was rated for ages 8 through adult. I evaluated this science kit with the assistance of a 10 year old boy, Travis Pilarcik, a fourth grade student at Bear Creek Elementary, Boulder Colorado.
Except for the sink and cabinet mentioned above, all of the above items could be found in almost any home. If not found at home, then certainly at any supermarket. The cabinet was useless. A mixing bowl could have replaced the sink.
The only thing then which added value to this kit was the instruction booklet. It detailed ten activities. In a three-hour period we performed six of these activities.
The booklet stressed the recording of one's findings. However, due to pressure from my associate, as well as the pressure of time, this instruction was ignored. We did make a few notes in margins of the booklet itself.
The booklet attempted to explain, in a paragraph, the principle demonstrated in each activity.
This experiment demonstrated the diffusion of drops of a dye into a hot and a cold liquid. Unfortunately, the hot and cold liquids were encountered at different steps in the procedure. It would have been better if the behavior of the two liquids had been compared side-by-side at the same time.
Another experiment in this activity involved watching the hot, dyed liquid diffuse into the cold, dyed liquid (another color). This was done by filling two glasses with the respective fluids and inverting the cooler liquid using the index card as a cover. The inverted glass was joined to the other glass by matching the rims and then removing the index card. A misstep here produced a mess of dyed water being spilled. The child had not been warned to perform this experiment in the actual kitchen sink.
This experiment involved reducing the surface tension of water by adding a drop of detergent. A small figure of a boat is cut out from a piece of paper and placed on the surface of water in the plastic kitchen sink. A drop of detergent added at the bow of the boat causes it to race across the sink.
Water and detergent were used to make a solution to use in forming bubbles by blowing through a straw, which had been dipped in the solution. Bubble stability was increased by adding sugar to the water and then chilling the solution before using.
This was another mixing demonstration. Three layers of water, which were dyed different colors (one not dyed), were constructed in a glass by preparing three different concentrations of corn syrup in water. The most concentrated water was placed in the glass. The less concentrated solutions were added to the glass by slowly pouring them over the more concentrated solutions. Finally a layer of cooking oil was used as the top layer.
After these observations were made, a drop of dye was then added to the oil layer. It was immiscible with the oil. This was more interesting than the other portion of the experiment because the drop did not fall through the oil without some prodding. Then when the droplet came into contact with the water it did not diffuse, presumably because the surface had become coated with the oil molecules. This was not discussed in the kit.
This activity demonstrates growing crystals of sugar from a solution. Avoided because of the time required.
This experiment was the favorite of my associate. It involved making a slurry of cornstarch in water. This slurry becomes viscous when agitated rapidly so that it resembles a clay-like material. When left undisturbed its viscosity decreases and it flows to form a flat surface like water. You can make it into a solid ball and hold it in your hand, then it will slowly liquefy and flow through your fingers`.
This activity uses an indicator solution made from red cabbage to investigate the acidity of various common liquids found around a kitchen.
The booklet also suggested using a chicken bone.
This activity involved making two versions of modeling clay from flour, oil, salt, water and cream of tartar. One version of the clay is non-hardening. The other can be hardened by baking at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no discussion whatsoever of the science behind this experiment.
This activity explored the role of ingredients used in making cupcakes. Four cupcakes are made from a recipe containing flour, sugar, salt, and milk. Three additional ingredients, egg, oil, and baking soda, are used in conventional cupcakes. One of the four cupcakes contains all three of these ingredients. Each of the other three cupcakes contains only two of the three ingredients - one contains no egg; one contains no oil; and one contains no baking soda.
This kit was overpriced at any price. The only thing not commonly found around a common kitchen was the instruction booklet. The kitchen cabinet and kitchen sink were useless marketing devices to justifying charging for this product.
The question remains whether a child would attempt these activities if given only the instruction booklet. I doubt it. There is something about opening a package.
These experiments haven't changed in the 50 years since I might have used a kit such as this.
I found the explanations seriously lacking, but I do not know what level of science eight year old children are expected to appreciate. I had trouble persuading my associate, who was ten years old, to read some of the explanations. However, in all fairness, he did not want to listen to my explanations either.
The mixing experiments, Activity 1 and 4, were uninteresting and are already parts of a child's experience. As pointed out for Activity 1, the procedure failed to provide a convincing side-by-side comparison. Activity 4 did introduce immiscible liquids, but then failed to make observations about the drop of aqueous dye, which would not spontaneously mix with the water after passing through the oil.
Activity 2 was poorly explained. In addition, the experiment could not be repeated without recharging the kitchen sink with fresh water. This is important to illustrate that the soap film has spread over the entire water surface. This should have been a part of the experiment.
Activity 3 produced very poor soap bubbles. I made another ring for blowing bubbles from a length of copper wire. This could have been included in the kit without adding considerably to the cost of materials, or increasing the hazardous nature of the kit. Better bubble stability is obtained by adding glycerin to the water instead of sugar.
Activity 6 was the crowd pleaser. It was surprising enough to really grab the attention of my associate. It was the only part he found interesting enough to take home to show his family.
Activity 8 takes roughly one week and has not yet been observed by my associate.
With the exception of Activity 6, the experiments were not very notable. The explanations could be improved. I think most children would feel ripped off by this kit.
As an aside I would offer one other editorial question. The following quote comes from the instruction booklet "Chemistry is one part of the study of matter. The entire universe is made up of matter, as matter is anything that takes up space. The chair you're setting on, the air you breathe, the stars and clouds, are all made of matter. ..."
I can recall reading this type of explanation of matter from early science books when I was a child and asking myself - "Am I also made up of matter?, Does the fact that I am omitted from the list of things made up of matter mean that I am made of something different.? If I am made of matter, then why doesn't the author point that out?" I have yet to see a beginning science text that specifically points out that humans are also made up of matter. I marvel at this omission and wonder whether there may be some mistaken reason why children aren't told that they too are made of matter.