With See For Yourself, budding scientists can wow their teachers and classmates (and maybe win a ribbon or two) by learning
How to extract DNA from an onion
How pigments from vegetables make dye
How to make paper out of lint from a clothes dryer
How to make a friend feel like he or she has a third hand
What happens when you grow yeast in dandruff shampoo
That tea and iron pills make excellent inks
And much more!
See for Yourself includes experiments in the areas of chemistry, earth science, physical science, the human body, and technology, but the experiments all take their inspiration from very familiar places. The materials needed to execute the experiments can all be inexpensively purchased at the supermarket, the toy store, the hardware store, the stationery store, and the drugstore. Some of the experiments are quick and easy, while others are more challenging. Most include additional suggestions so that curious young scientists can keep on investigating.
Vicki Cobb is the master of the student experiment book. Her challenges are fresh, but not outlandish. In this book she wants students to investigate themselves. Check out how well you can feel cold and how you can fool yourself (and others). Then try a hot illusion. Why does your brain think something is hot when it isn't hot? Cobb includes interludes of good science writing with most of the experiments, explaining, for example, the way our eyes work. "The irises in your eyes open and close your pupils to let in different amounts of light. When things are very bright, your pupils become very small. In dim light or in the dark, your pupils expand to let in more light." After exploring some of the basics of the human body, Cobb looks for inspiration from other common places. These include the supermarket (searching for yeast busters), toy store, drugstore, hardware store (more physics here), and stationery store. I was a bit surprised by the stationery store idea, but she includes projects about recycled paper and adhesives. The cartoon art illustrations are enjoyable and occasionally help with the explanation of how to set up a project. Like most of her books this is highly recommended. Backmatter contains three indexes: one by subject, one by discipline, and one by challenge level. Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
- Bethany Martin
The book is well organized, grouping experiments into such chapters as "Yourself and Other Humans" and "Inspirations from the Supermarket," based on where the materials and ideas for the activities can be found. Thorough indexes—by subject, scientific discipline, and challenge level—are included. While many of the activities are too simple for middle school level science projects (for example, instructions on making a paper airplane), Cobb includes observations and suggestions for taking the experiments further, helping students make connections and form their own hypotheses to test. Each activity also includes keywords to aid students in Internet searches for further information and additional activities. Each experiment is given a challenge level; these labels, however, are sometimes inconsistent and arbitrary. A simple temperature illusion experiment involving placing the hands in bowls of warm, cold, and room-temperature water is given a middle challenge rating. A multistep activity involving boiling, baking, then frying rice to make cereal is also given a middle challenge rating. Safety warnings are provided for experiments requiring the use of heat or sharp objects, but, again, they are inconsistent. The same procedure, for example, cutting hard plastic, is given a safety note in one experiment but not another. The full-color illustrations are visually appealing, but they are cartoony and do not always accurately depict the instructions for the experiment. Overall, this book has some interesting experiments and good aids for further research, but the many inconsistencies hinder its usability. Reviewer: Bethany Martin
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—This accessible and often intriguing collection of activities and experiments has minor changes from the original edition (Scholastic Reference, 2001). An all-new introduction promotes science by including a list of reasons to love it, such as "it gives you an excuse to play." The experiments are grouped by their source of inspiration: humans, the supermarket, the toy store, drugstore, and hardware and stationery stores. "Yourself and Other Humans" focuses on the senses and other features. The store activities involve chemistry, physics, and biology. Each experiment has a "Method of Investigation" with numbered steps, a sequential list of supplies, and a culminating section of "Observations & Suggestions" for further inquiry. Highlighted sidebars give background information. Meant as a springboard to exploration, each experiment includes a list of keywords for further research. The indexes offer a variety of entry points including subject, discipline, and level of challenge. Cartoon-style illustrations are now in full color. Purchase this if you missed the first edition.—Carol S. Surges, McKinley Elementary School, Wauwatosa, WI
Vicki Cobb is the well-known author of more than eighty-five highly entertaining nonfiction books for children, including Bet You Can’t, which won the New York Academy of Sciences Children’s Science Book Award, and We Dare You! Cobb’s lighthearted approach to hands-on science has become her trademark for getting kids involved in experiences that create real learning. She resides in Greenburgh, New York.