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Book Review: Exploratopia

Book Review

Exploratopia by Pat Murphy, Ellen Macaulay, and the Exploratorium (Little, Brown and Co., 2006)

Ages 8 -12

Exploratopia "teaches kids to explore their world." This big, beautifully photograph-illustrated volume has scores of science activities that are simple to do, but develop important and accessible bits of scientific understanding.

The high quality and thoughtfulness in this book are hallmarks of the Exploratorium , San Francisco's science museum and our family's all-time favorite. You can bet that anything that comes from the Exploratorium is a couple levels smarter, and more insightful about kids and science, than any comparable product.

So it is with the activities in this book. Rather than being just a bunch of cool science-appreciation demonstrations, the activities hang together in a way that builds knowledge and understanding of big science themes.

Divided into three sections (Exploring Yourself, Exploring Interesting Places, and Exploring Interesting Stuff), the book teaches kids to look more closely at the things they see and do every day, to ask questions, and to find really interesting answers. Each activity ends with a "What's Going On" section, explaining the science behind the activity.

"Exploring Yourself" is about the senses. In one activity, kids get to count their taste buds to see if they are "Supertasters," who have an excuse not to like vegetables (supertasters are more sensitive to bitter compounds in vegetables).

The interesting places in "Exploring Interesting Places" include the kitchen, bathroom, and amusement parks, among others. In the kitchen section, kids learn how to mummify a hot dog to preserve it for all time. That's typical of the kid appeal inherent in this book's activities.

The "Interesting Stuff" section has activities related to more traditional science themes like light and magnetism, as well as optical illusions and fun with paper.

This one book could get your child through a whole career of elementary school science fairs. Highly recommended.

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