Special Interest Resources: Chemistry

Elements, atoms, chemistry, and particle physics have been a main Special Interest around our house for….2 years now? Not really sure. But I’ve had enough people asking me what resources we use on my personal facebook that I’m tired of typing it over and over again. So I’m going to drop all the links here with some descriptions and just link them to this from now on. (Materials are appropriate for a Late Elementary to Early High School level, depending on the ability and interest of your child.)

  1. Happy Atoms These were an investment that we used tax return money on. At the time we found out the hard way that they were not supported on the Kindles we were using as tablets for the boys, but since then they DO support Kindle now. Happy Atoms lets kids explore with possible atomic configurations of some the most common elements, using magnets to form connections. You then take a picture with your tablet in the app, and it tells you what you’ve created, and gives you more information to learn about it. The cool thing is that kids have to figure it out on their own, learning from trial and error. Each new molecule they discover expands the map in the app. Our family has a policy of restricted screen time, but Happy Atoms is one of the exceptions to limits on screen time because they have learned so much from it. From what ionic bonds are to how the different parts of a molecule’s name can tell you what’s in it, this set was well worth the investment.
  2. Elements, Molecules, and Reactions are a series of full color books that are a beautiful visual exploration of their titled subject. Builder Boy used the Molecules book to build them with his Happy Atoms and vastly expanded his explored map. He also read them so much that he memorized many common molecule’s compositions. All on his own. Builder Boy is a reluctant reader (we suspect stealth dyslexia, but can’t prove it) so anything that gets him looking at the written word for information is a huge deal. It’s also why we bought:
  3. The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry We discovered several years ago that cartoon non-fiction was the way to get Builder Boy to read. We’ve since purchased several in this series, all ones that fit with his interest.

    Those three things were seriously all they needed for over a year. Their interest sustained them, and their retention, especially Builder Boy’s, was excellent. But lately they have wanted to learn more beyond that, so we have since added:

  4. Particle Physics Brick by Brick This is where Builder Boy is getting his information for his current 5 paragraph essay that I can’t say for certain or not is correct or not. He’s talking about “up quarks” and “down quarks” which I’m pretty sure was never covered in a class I was ever in. I still remember when basic String Theory made the news, that’s about where my particle physics knowledge ends. But this awesome book takes a (to some) intimidating topic and keeps it friendly using my son’s favorite medium, Legos, as their way to explain. It’s awesome and he loves it.
  5. The Secret Life of the Periodic Table This book gives more background information, but in small, manageable amounts, about how the elements were discovered. Instead of going in number order like the Elements group, it groups them by type. Builder Boy will admit to enjoying reading it, which is always a win in my book.
  6. Balancing Chemical Equations This is a high school level workbook that doesn’t seem to have an answer key. Builder Boy loves algebra and the idea of this workbook, but hasn’t actually done much because it got put in a pile and forgotten about.

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