"Slime Science" is a kit for creating various kinds of gooey substances. The kit contains most of the ingredients necessary (white glue, corn starch, liquid starch, borax, and Guar Gum) for creating six varieties of slime. The kit also includes all the necessary measuring utensils, an illustrated black and white instruction manual, and a set of slime recipe cards. Through the creation of various kinds of slime, children are expected to learn about polymers and colloids. The kit is designed for children 8 and up.
All in all, you get a lot out of the $10 kit. None of the slime recipes take more than a few minutes, so you get interesting varieties of sludge with a moderate amount of effort. Despite making a mistake with one of the recipes, we still managed to produce slime resembling the stuff shown on the front of the box. The white glue that came with the kit was slightly dried out, making the glue recipes a little disappointing.
Every experiment was followed by some scientific explanation of aspects of the experiment. In the first experiment we made sewer slime, and the instruction manual explained the chemical nature of polymers and a few polymer chains properties. In the second and third experiments we made two other slimes (the Wiggly Wonder and the Power Puddy) and then were asked to compare the two materials based on texture, ability to bounce and maintain shape, pick up newspaper print, and other fun properties. We never returned to use the sewer slime.
Although, there was a lot of chemistry information, but it isn't clear that it would necessarily be that useful or that the experiments would help pick up the content. In fact, it is pretty easy to avoid any scientific content by simply using the recipe cards (that describe how to concoct the slime) and never opening the instruction manual. There were molecular diagrams showing the structure of polymer chains, but again it is unclear if they are useful. Since you can't observe these chains directly, the picture may be more confusing than informative. Other analogies (such as what happens when you rip newspaper) seemed to be more helpful. However, is ripping newspaper analogous to the structure of polymer chains? If so, perhaps the connection should be more direct.
Most of the scientific content was "up front" in the first experiment and was never directly returned to in the later comparison experiments. Perhaps, placing the scientific content after the comparisons would provide more concrete grounding for the scientific principles.
However, even with a more grounded presentation of the chemistry content, we still believe that an 8-year-old probably finds the prospect of grossing out their sibling to be more interesting than the chemistry content. Kids might answer questions if prompted by adults, or they could try sticking slime up his/her friend's nose. Kid/adult learning seems essential.
You could produce slime by following detailed directions in the instruction manual or brief instructions on the small recipe cards. The latter are meant to resemble food recipe cards both in shape and in format. Incidentally, this is not the only association between the slime and food; the box also suggests placing the slime on your dinner plate. Since some of the slime recipes contain borax (sodium tetraborate), eating the slime is probably not a good idea.
All in all, the kit is very well documented and all the parts are well labeled. The quick reference recipe cards, as with many food recipes, are vague and inconsistent. For example, not all ingredients used are listed in the ingredient list and the quantities of ingredients are split between the ingredient list and the instructions. Adding a bulleted list or more specific steps to the cards would make them much easier to use.
The portions produced for some experiments were way to small to provide any real excitement. By providing more material and having recipes for larger amounts, the slime would be a lot more fun. The portions supplied in the kit also do not allow very much room for error in making the recipes, which could frustrate a child (or even an adult). It would be great if the instructions could recommend how to make slime out of household items, turning your entire home into a slime-filled learning experience.
Well, if you like slime, this kit is for you. The slime could certainly sell well during Halloween and would do even better if they included food coloring. So, if your kids are into sticky, mushy, gooey substances, then they'll have a ball making slime, sticking it to the walls and unexpecting passer-bys. The whole experiment is a bit messy, and the suggestion in the instructions to put down newspapers over your work area is a good idea. Some kids might love this kind of activity, others may not.
It seems that it is assumed that the child or adult will intuitively have ideas about how to play with or use the polymers, colloids and slimes. This may be a disadvantage of the product since the product does not keep very well. The instructions recommend refrigerating the slime but it will still become moldy after a few days.
Perhaps, having some instructions on how slimes can be used in devious and useful ways would instigate more interest for both an adult and a child playing with the slimes. A child/adult group or even a group of children by themselves would probably find this product fun to use together. Creating and playing with the slime is a fun group activity.
The best way to see how children and adults will use the kit is actually to see how adult/children interaction really works! Testing this with children or with children/adult pairs is the best way to see how they would use the kit.
Embedding computation within the experimental setup of making slime does not seem to be all that beneficial. Perhaps you could make a cricket-controlled blender to illustrate different thicknesses of slimes, but there is no measurements or data collection that would seem to benefit from computer controls.
Augmenting the kit activities with a computer may be a valuable activity. For example, a Web site that addresses scientific questions not discussed in the manual would be nice. For example, we observed that the slime was sticky but we didn't know what made something sticky. Multimedia presentations could also be used to guide people through various experiments, perhaps through graphical or animated walkthroughs. The Web would also be a useful collaborative tool where children could ask questions to experts if they have questions about slime that their parents can't answer. Since the instructions encourage children to make new slime recipes, the ability to share your latest and greatest slime recipes on the Web could also be interesting.
Slime Science is a mixed bag. You can do a lot of stuff for $10, but having more ingredients could also be helpful. Creating and playing with the slime was fun, but the science sometimes seems decoupled from the slime play activity. Testing with various age groups and different levels of adult supervision/interaction would certainly be helpful. Adding online resources that address frequently encountered questions or provide a Web site for exchanging recipes would be a good way to integrate computer support into the kit.