Share it! Science : 2023

STEM Learning with Makeblock's mBot Ultimate 10-in-1 Coding Robot Kit

We have been enjoying playing with our new mBot Ultimate robot from Makeblock. I was fortunate to be asked to review this product, and the kids and adults in our house have had fun building and experimenting with our first build, the "Robotic Arm Tank" robot. 
Makeblock creates products for STEAM education that help people turn their "ideas into reality". The mBot Ultimate 10-in-1 coding robot kit will certainly inspire teens and families who love to build and engineer to explore robotics and coding in depth. Read on to find out what we liked best about this robot building kit.
STEM Makeblock Ultimate Coding Robot Kit
Please note: I was given this product free of charge and invited to honestly review this product and become an affiliate of Makeblock. I was not otherwise compensated to write this post. This post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission from purchases made through these links, at no additional cost to you. Please see disclosures for more information.

Unboxing mBot Ultimate 10-in-1 Coding Robot

The mBot Ultimate comes with a ton of pieces and components to build 10 robots with different features. It's essentially a modern erector set with metal support pieces, motors, sensors and a circuit board. 
STEM Makeblock Ultimate 10-in-1 Coding Robot Kit

The box consists of 2 layers of pieces. The instruction booklet has a detailed listing of parts with illustrations. After building our first robot, I would highly recommend familiarizing yourself with all the parts prior to building. Some of the hardware is very well organized and labeled, while other parts are not. If I was going to use this in a classroom, after-school team or club setting I would be sure to either label the hardware in advance or dedicate time to allow students to identify which piece is which. 

STEM Makeblock Ultimate 10-in-1 Coding Robot Kit
The instruction manual has the directions for the Robotic Arm Tank, which is what we built, the Beverage Robot, and the Camera Dolly.  You can follow a link in the manual to directions for the other builds, however if you speak and read English you will have to translate the page to English with your web browser. In order to download further instructions you must create a free account on the site. After quite a bit of digging, we found easier access to the additional builds. You can find the instructions for the additional robots here in .pdf form. 
You can also find additional help and resources for the Ultimate 10-in-1 Coding Robot here.  

STEM Makeblock Ultimate 10-in-1 Coding Robot Kit

Building the mBot Ultimate Robot

This was not a quick build, but it resulted in a sturdy robot that my kids want to keep playing around with. I would highly recommend this kit for the teen who has a vested interest in engineering and robotics. Like any building project there is some trial and error especially when building with so many small parts. Patience and the willingness to make adjustments as you go is key! The mBot Ultimate would be perfect for an older child who has experience creating with LEGO, or building with tools. However, it would also be a great project for any age with help from an adult. 

Even my preschool and elementary school aged children enjoyed tinkering around with the pieces and built their own creations as we went. 
There are no special tools needed to assemble the robot. The one screwdriver needed is included in the kit. 

STEM Makeblock Ultimate 10-in-1 Coding Robot Kit

STEM Makeblock Ultimate 10-in-1 Coding Robot Kit

Coding and Playing with Makeblock's mBot Ultimate Robot

Once the robot was built, it was not difficult to get it up and running. There are many options for coding the mBot Ultimate robot. Beginners can use the mBlock app for simple block coding. For more advanced coding it is compatible with Arduino or Python coding combined with Raspberry Pi. 

We used an iPad to remote control our robot with the app available from Makeblock. Here is a peek into what the app looks like as you are using it to control the robot, and while you are coding. 
And here is our robot in action, helping us tidy up! 


Makeblock mBot Ultimate 10-in-1 Robot: Summary

Overall, we really enjoyed the process of building, coding and interacting with our Makeblock mBot Ultimate robot kit. I would recommend it based on the quality of the parts, the versatility of the components and the ability to build 10 different projects with one kit. I liked that the compatibility of the robotic components with various coding apps and languages, such as Arduino, Python and components compatible with Raspberry Pi, gives basic coding options for beginners, and gives experts the opportunity to try something new. 
The robot kit is STEM through and through with a good combination of each STEM discipline: technology through coding, science and technology through the use of sensors, math in the measurements and sizes of components, the engineering process through building, testing, trial and error.
makeblock STEM robotics

The kit comes at a higher price point, but for the right kid or family the mBot Ultimate would be a great investment as there is a lot of play and learning value here. There are also many other robots and products available from Makeblock in a range of prices that would meet the need of different budgets, ages and learning goals. 

Use code: SAVE10 for $10 off your first purchase!

Teachers can join Makeblock's discount program and purchase kits for their classroom. Learn more here.

Would we recommend Makeblock's mBot Ultimate 10-in-1 Robot Kit? Definitely. We are already thinking of what we might be able to do with our next mBot Ultimate build. Check out Makeblock! I think you and your favorite little (or big!) engineer will be glad that you did.

15 Science Themed Stocking Stuffers

Bring on the science this holiday season! Here are some affordable, unique and interesting ideas for stocking stuffers this year. Sure to please the young (or old) scientist on your list. Many of these would make great science-themed party favors as well. There is bound to be something here that will pique the interest of the people in your life this year. Really, who doesn't love science? 
From miniature microscopes to temporary tattoos you will find something for every budget. I have also included links for several retailers, so that you can conveniently find what you are looking for at a price you like. Let the science gift-giving begin! 
This post contains affiliate links meaning when you make purchases through these links I make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Please see disclosures for more information. 
science themed stocking stuffers


Science Tool Stocking Stuffers

Tools of the trade for small hands. 

Magnifying Glass 

Kids love to view things magnified and close up. A magnifying glass makes the perfect little budget friendly stocking stuffer. 
Here are some good choices: 



From bird watching to star gazing, a pair of binoculars can be a handy tool. Here are a couple of good choices for young scientists. 



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Miniature Microscope

Absolutely love this pocket microscope. Use it inside or throw it in a backpack for an outdoor adventure. 

Pocket Microscope: Amazon

A Science Notebook

A notebook for observations and experiments is indispensable! And it doesn't have to be anything fancy. Check out these little stocking-sized ones. 


Plastic Test Tubes

For all of those little experiments! These test tube sets will inspire all sorts of open-ended experimenting and science play. 


Exploring Nature Stocking Stuffers

A few must haves for kids who love nature!

Bug Box

Investigate some creepy crawlies close-up, before returning them to their home. 

Bug Box: Amazon


Rocks and Fossils

Do you know a little rock hound? Small fossils and polished stones are fun little gifts. 

Animal Tracking Cards

Perfect for the backpack when you are out exploring! 

Sun Print Paper

Make a nature print with something cool you've discovered outside. These can be so beautiful, and easy to stick in a nature journal. 

Little Science Experiment Stocking Stuffers


Crystal Growing Kits

These are so fun! Grow crystals of different colors and shapes. How about a little nostalgia? Crystal growing trees! I loved these when I was a kid. 



Lemon Clock Experiment

Build your own lemon clock!


Just for Fun Science Stocking Stuffers


Crocheted Biology and Chemistry Novelties

Are you crafty? Download some crochet patterns to make some cute biology or chemistry themed stuffed toys.

Giant Microbe Stuffies

These funny novelties also teach a little bit about germs and viruses! Good for someone with a sense of humor! 

Giant Microbes: Amazon

Science Themed Stickers

Super fun for water bottles, laptops, etc. Science and STEM themed stickers!

Science Temporary Tattoos

Get temporarily "inked" in a wonderfully science-nerdy way! Fun for all ages.

Science Temporary Tattoos: Amazon


Find more unique science gifts here! Perfect for science teachers! 

  hand2mind Science Kits

Building Science Skills with Compare and Contrast Picture Books

Kids love animals and have an innate desire want to categorize and sort things into groups. Why not combine these passions to build early observation skills in science? I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to review this year's Compare and Contrast books from Arbordale Publishing. I'd love to share this engaging book series with you along with resources and activity ideas for science class. 
In this post you will find information about Compare and Contrast books, written by seasoned zoo and aquarium educators, as well as links to an infographic activity and how to use graphic organizers to build science skills in observation and categorization.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission from purchases made through links, at no additional cost to you. Please see disclosures for more information.

Animal Compare and Contrast Books

The newest compare and contrast books from Arbordale Publishing feature dazzling photos of animals. In many cases the pictures give a glimpse of something we would not have an opportunity to see otherwise. We especially loved the images of turtles in Turtles: A Compare and Contrast Book.  You can preview the turtle book here. (Recommended for ages 4-9, grades K-3)

Each book in the series is well organized. For example, Birds: A Compare and Contrast Book is organized by feature and adaptation. I think this makes this series perfect for the classroom or at home because students can find interesting information in a way that is logical and scaffolds off of their prior knowledge. You can preview the bird book here. (Recommended for ages 4-9, grades K-3)

While the turtle and bird books focus on one group of animals, others compare and contrast two similar yet different types of animal. These are wonderful for finding out why we may confuse two types of creatures and what actually makes them different from one another. These titles include: Alligator or Crocodile?, Black Bear or Grizzly Bear?, Hippo or Rhino? and Octopus or Squid?.

We definitely learned some interesting things we didn't know before from this book series. 
Did you know? 
  • There are 16 subspecies of Black Bear in North America. All subtle differences in DNA.
  • In addition to eight arms, squid have two tentacles covered in suction cups and hooks.
  • Black rhinos can grab onto things with their prehensile upper lip.
And many, many more interesting facts, but I don't want to spoil them all! 
I loved that each book contained additional learning material, activities and ideas in the back. You could read the book just for fun, or turn it into a deeper learning experience with these extensions. 
I believe the Compare and Contrast series would be an excellent addition to any classroom or home library. Engaging images, interesting and understandable content on topics kids get excited about.

Comparing and Contrasting for Preschool

animal sorting science preschool

Little ones love to sort! After a Compare and Contrast book read-aloud, get out a big sheet of paper (we love big paper rolls!) tape it to the floor and draw some sorting circles. Grab some animal toys (our Octonauts made it into the mix!) and have the kids sort based on color, type or however they choose. 
animal sorting science preschool

This is excellent practice in making observations, looking carefully, comparing and contrasting. 

Create an Infographic with Elementary Students

Use the Compare and Contrast series to have students design their own infographics. Using this template, kids can illustrate and write about an animal they have read about. Bits of information comparing their animal to another are explained with text and information. Once everyone is done the students can become the teachers and share their illustrated information with their peers.  

Graphic Organizers

Here is a great article on using graphic organizers in literature-based science instruction. After reading a compare and contrast book help students organize and process new information by using a graphic organizer such as a T-chart or Venn diagram. 

T-charts are an easy way for young students to organize information when comparing two things. Circle the kids up and get out the chart paper to have them help you populate information into two categories. 

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 If you're looking for another book to inspire some STEM learning in the elementary classroom, check out my post: Poetry and Engineering Inspired by Nature.

10 Must-Have Printable Downloads for Fall Science Class

Looking for just the right print out to go along with your hands-on science lesson? Or maybe spruce up an old lesson or unit with something new? Here are 10 fun printable downloads you will find useful year after year during the fall term. We have seasonal and nature topics for early childhood and elementary school aged students covered with: Apples, Pumpkins, Trees and Leaves, Hibernation and Migration. Find some inspiration and discover something new for the new school year! 

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission from purchases made through these links, at no additional cost to you. Please see disclosures for more information.

Apple Lesson Printables

Fall is the perfect time to study life cycles, especially those that result in some delicious treats, like the life cycle of an apple tree!  Check out this apple tree life cycle wheel for young learners who are discovering the steps in an apple tree's life cycle. 
After you take a trip to the orchard for apple picking, try this apple experiment and download the free printable science journal that goes along with it. Linked to a book in one of our favorite series, Zoey and Sassafras, it explores decomposition and food preservation using apples. It's a great student-led experiment because they have some freedom in what to use to try to preserve their apple slices. 

Pumpkin Lesson Printables 

Pumpkins are yet another super fun way to study plant life cycles. Here is a lovely pumpkin life cycle wheel that actually looks like a pumpkin when you are finished! 

Pumpkins are an easy tool for teaching about decomposition. One of my favorite ways is to use the picture book Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell. 

You can read about how I would integrate this story into a long-term lesson in observing the decomposition of a pumpkin here. Included in this post is a link to a free pumpkin observation printable. Or use this decomposing pumpkin study printable to not only set up a science experiment with your own pumpkin, but also integrate pumpkin learning through language arts. 

Pumpkin STEM lesson
My all time favorite elementary pumpkin lesson is a multi-day STEM observation of a pumpkin. Weighing, measuring, counting, floating (!?!) tons of science and math skills are used to learn more about a pumpkin. It's always a hit with the kids, especially if they have grown or picked out the pumpkins themselves. You can learn more about this pumpkin STEM lesson here, or find the instructions and observation worksheets in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here

Tree and Leaf Printables

If you live in an area with deciduous trees, then fall is probably one of your favorite seasons for its rainbow of foliage colors. It is a fun time to learn why the leaves change color and study the diversity of trees and their life cycles. 
Teach your kids or students tree identification with these simple fall leaf identification cards. They would also be great to take on a nature walk for a leaf scavenger hunt!

You will also want to check out this massive collection of tree printables from WildEarthLab, who creates some beautiful and useful environmental educational and science materials.

Migration Printables

Migration is one of the amazing and miraculous natural occurrences of fall. There are lots of opportunities to observe migration in nature, and also follow migration digitally

If you live in the northeastern United States there are many excellent locations for hawk watching as they migrate south for the winter. Download this free guide for non-commercial use to help you identify the hawks you are seeing in the sky. 

Monarch butterflies are migrators loved by many. Check out these ideas for studying Monarch migration in Preschool-12th grade. This is such a cool 3-D paper model download for learning about Monarch life cycles.


Hibernation Printables

What are animals doing in fall? Preparing for winter. Along with migration, hibernation is an interesting topic to delve into during the later fall months. 

The illustrations are gorgeous in this Charlotte Mason hibernation lesson pack. It would be great to print and laminate for a think-pair-share (or in this case, "read-pair-share") activity in your science classroom.

Introduce what it means to hibernate and begin to discover the creatures that do so with this free hibernation printable pack. 

Don't Miss These Printables!

If you are looking for other quality sources of printable nature or environmental science downloads, I would highly recommend these:

Tanglewood Hollow Digital and Printable Items

Mother Natured Nature Printables Club

Raising Butterflies at Home and School: Metamorphosis Before Your Very Eyes!

Each spring for the past 4 years we have seen a little bit of magic happen on our kitchen counter. Tiny caterpillars arrive in the mail and over the next week or so grow so quickly you can almost see it happening. One day they find a cozy place to hang and you blink and they are no longer caterpillars, but tiny chrysalides. The rest of the action takes place inside, and we wish we had x-ray vision to let us see. One day, out come butterflies! 

Raising butterflies from an Insect Lore cup of caterpillars is a very easy and fairly fool-proof way to share this magical life cycle with kids at home or school. Read on to find out how simple the process is and my recommendation for purchasing what you need. 

Please note, this blog post was not written in partnership with Insect Lore. My opinions about their products come from my experience with them and I was not compensated to review their products. This post contains affiliate and referral links, meaning I receive a small commission or points from purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. Please see disclosures for more information.

Raising Butterflies at Home or School

Butterfly Kits

Raising caterpillars into butterflies is a very easy and foolproof process with Insect Lore's Butterfly Garden kit. We purchased our first kit from Amazon to save a few dollars, but have continued to buy our Painted Lady caterpillars each year directly from Insect Lore. If you want to purchase your butterfly habitat with live caterpillars rather than a voucher to get the caterpillars at a later date, you should buy directly from Insect Lore. I recommend signing up for their newsletter as well and you will find many opportunities for sales like BOGO cup of caterpillars, kits and bonus gifts. (Plus their newsletter is fascinating, it's one of the few company e-mails I receive that I actually read all the way through!)
Our caterpillars always come quickly and in good health. The only issue I've had is that once there were only 4 caterpillars in our cup instead of 5. Customer service was very responsive and easy to work with. Our problem was resolved very quickly. I have always been so happy with this company. 
Be sure that when you order your caterpillars it is the right time of year and temperature in your region to release them safely and for their health. Your caterpillars will arrive promptly after ordering them and you don't want it to be too cold or too hot for them to be traveling in the mail. You might also want to investigate whether or not you have a natural food source available for Painted Lady Butterflies. Flowers in the mallow and thistle families are good choices. You can learn more about the habitat requirements of Painted Lady Butterflies here

Butterfly metamorphosis

Observing Butterfly Metamorphosis

The caterpillars come in a cup that holds all of the food they will need to grow over the next 2-4 weeks. You can leave them enclosed in the cup until they have each made a chrysalis. My one caveat with this is that it doesn't really show children how a caterpillar feeds in the wild. Munching away at some brown gel in the bottom of a cup isn't like munching at a plant. However, since we have young kids this is a really easy way to raise the caterpillars, and it proves very successful. We've only lost 2 butterflies from the 30 or so we have raised. The caterpillars are fascinating to watch and they grow SO, SO QUICKLY. It is mind boggling. It really is kind of like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. 
Raising the caterpillars in a cup is a great teachable moment to investigate native plants and host plants for insects. You can work on answering the questions: How is this different than the Painted Lady Butterfly's life cycle in nature? What is a host plant? What part of the plant does a caterpillar depend on? What part of the plant does an adult butterfly depend on? 
Growing painted lady caterpillars
One day the bigger caterpillars begin to hang from the top of the cup in a "j" shape, and that is when you know that they are getting ready to pupate. Soon after there are chrysalides hanging from the lid of the cup where the caterpillars once were. 
Painted lady butterfly life cycle

Then it is time to move the critters to their butterfly habitat while they make their incredible transformation. We are "Waiting for Wings"!

The next 10 days or so will require a bit of patience, so this is an excellent time to learn more about butterfly life cycles. How cool is this 3-D Monarch life cycle printable download? You can try building your own DIY butterfly feeder in the meantime to attract even more butterflies to your yard or school yard. 

Painted Lady Butterfly Chrysalis


Painted Lady Butterflies 

One day, those butterflies will emerge from their chrysalides. We have only actually witnessed it a few times, it happens very quickly. We feed our adult butterflies sugar water from a sponge, orange slices, and watermelon. The butterflies love watermelon! It is so cool to see that curly proboscis unfurl and slurp up the sugary liquid. This is a great time to make some observations that would be difficult to observe in the wild. 
Adult Painted Lady Butterfly
After a few days we release our Painted Ladies. It's always a bit of a bittersweet moment as we really enjoy having them, but it is also exciting to see them fly away and be free! 

Releasing an adult painted lady butterfly at home

Take an Insect Class! 

If your kids are wild about insects like mine, maybe they would enjoy my "Invent an Insect!" online class on Outschool. Learn the parts of an insect through games, songs and more in a lesson that I've had success teaching for almost 2 decades! Check out the schedule here. If you are new to Outschool, use my referral coupon code: MSSARAH2020 to receive $20 credit towards your first Outschool classes. You can find other coupon codes here.

Butterfly Metamorphosis Before Your Very Eyes

Two Thumbs Up for Generation Genius Home Science Kits!

I don't know about you, but I think it's pretty cool to get fun projects and activities in the mail. It beats junk mail and my kids certainly look forward to receiving them. We have used a few subscription boxes over the years and were very excited to be invited to review the new subscription home science kit from Generation Genius! The home kit is designed for kids aged 9 and up, and delivers three fun, safe and engaging science activities to your mailbox each month. With an option for a 3-month subscription, these are great activities to keep the kids busy over summer vacation. The children (and grown-ups!) in this house had a blast exploring the activities included in our sample, and we are sure you will too.  

Please note: I was invited to honestly review this subscription box and become an affiliate of Generation Genius. This post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission from purchases made through these links, at no additional cost to you. Please see disclosures for more information.
Home Science Experiment Kit

Engaging Science Activities at Home

Generation Genius home science kits are the most recent product from Generation Genius, who has been successfully creating standards aligned science and math lessons in partnership with NSTA. Teachers rave about the science and math videos they have been successfully using in their classrooms. So, it is exciting that there is now an opportunity for taking part in similarly engaging science activities at home.

Generation Genius Science Kits Logo

Short on time? Here's the quick review:

If you are in a hurry, we get it! Here is the bullet point version of our review. Read on below for a more detailed review. 
Did we like the Generation Genius home science kit? YES!! 
  • The projects were fun and interesting.
  • Everything necessary for completing the project was included in the box, no running around the house to find anything. 
  • The cost of the subscription is reasonable considering what was included. You wouldn't be able to DIY your own project for the price right now.
  • The video directions were clear, easy to follow and well-paced.
  • There are enough materials to complete each experiment more than once or have more than one person participate.  
  • The chemicals for the experiments were fairly common household materials that when used properly were safe but kids still got that real science lab feel.
Generation Genius Science Kit Subscription box

What is in the Home Science Kit Box?

Upon opening the box I was instantly impressed with how much was crammed into it. 2 pairs of safety goggles, three pairs of latex gloves in various sizes, a sticker, all the materials needed for three activities. I love that we didn't have to find any other supplies around the house before beginning the projects, it was all included and we could just begin. 
We received Science Kit 4, which included the following experiments: "The Disappearing Beaker", "The Goldenrod Paper" and "Make Branching Colors". My kids decided to try the 2 colorful experiments first, so those are what I will share here.
Generation Genius Home Science Kit 4
I thought it was great that more than one person could participate. There were enough supplies to have two people complete the project more than once. It was really nice not to worry we were going to accidentally use something up before we were through. 
The directions for the projects are given via video by Dr. Jeff, creator of Generation Genius. You can learn more about Dr. Jeff here.  The directions are demonstrated in a clear and understandable way and you can turn on an auto-pause feature to pause the video at each step. The pacing of the instructions was perfect, it worked out great for us. 

Generation Genius Science STEM kit

The Science Experiments

Here are some images from the two of the projects in our science kit. My kids gravitated immediately to the colorful experiments in the box: "The Goldenrod Paper" and "Make Branching Colors."

The Goldenrod paper experiment explored pH and using indicators to learn more about the properties of liquids. I have found that pH experiments are usually a hit as they tend to be interesting and fun as the color changes are instant and fascinating.
Goldenrod paper pH experiment supplies
The first step was to see what happens when you add different liquids to a universal indicator. The kids were so excited to use the chemicals. Although these were all common household liquids, the little bottles and containers are so alluring!
Experiment Universal Indicator pH STEM
pH universal indicator household liquids
After making a rainbow of different liquids with the universal indicator, they investigated how a baking soda mixture interacted with the goldenrod paper, which also works as an indicator.

It was cool to see the prints left behind after spraying hands with the baking soda mixture. They do look a little bloody, and it instantly made sense to me why people like Steve Spangler always use this as a Halloween demonstration. Will have to keep it in mind as a way to make some fun decorations next October. 
Goldenrod Paper pH Experiment Generation Genius Science Kit
In the branching colors experiment the kids played around with what happens as food coloring spreads through liquids of different viscosities.
It was so interesting to watch the colors branch out. It reminded me of fractals and the similar branching we see inside out own bodies and elsewhere in the natural world.
It was great that there were enough supplies and the invitation in the instructional video to continue to explore and play around with the color branching. It kept my kids engaged for quite some time!
Branching colors science experiment wood glue

Generation Genius Home Science Kit Review

I would highly recommend the Generation Genius science kit. They are reasonably priced and you have the choice of three different subscription plans including a 3-month. 

My kids enjoyed the projects. They were interesting and included enough supplies to do the experiment more than once. Each project was open-ended to keep kids engaged for a while, it wasn't just a quick one and done. 
Try out Generation Genius! I think you'll be happy you did!