Raise your hand if you’ve seen the Mentos In Cola trick?

I’m guessing your hand is up (if so, you can put it down now).  Did you know who the first person to show it on YouTube was?

Steve Spangler.  Here’s the recording from 2005 when he went on a local TV show and introduced the world to the awesome reaction that comes from one type of candy with cola.

Steve has a passion for making science fun to learn.  He likes to blow things up, make a mess, and overall have a blast while helping teach about science at the same time.  He gave presentations to nearly a thousand different schools in his career to help them make their science teaching more engaging and enjoyable.

The man is the real deal when it comes to making science fun for the average student.  When I discovered he has designed his own STEM subscription kits, I knew we needed to get under the hood and see what he had put together.   This article is our review of the Spangler Science Club STEM Labs Deluxe.

Update: April 2018
There was a press release issued in April of 2018 announcing the purchase of Spangler Science by Really Good Stuff LLC. You can read it here. It appears from the release that Steve will remain active in the business – which is a good thing. We’ll have to keep watching to make sure there aren’t any negative changes as new management takes over.

Who Is The STEM Lab Deluxe Subscription For?

The Spangler Science Club has levels for young scientists with differing interests.  The STEM snack is for those looking for a taste of experimentation, with one or two experiments a month.  The STEM Lab is a more full-blown science kit option.  You’ll get around 5 experiments and instructions written by Steve Spangler himself.  Both of these levels have activites geared for children to be able to complete mostly on their own.

The subscription level we reviewed was the Stem Lab Deluxe.  With double the experiments of the STEM Lab, it’s not only full of more content.  It’s also geared to be shared by a student and adult science mentor.  An adult helper guide is included to share all the scientific explanations behind the experiments, and give you answers to questions your young scientist might be asked in their own science guide.  This is a great way for a parent spend some time together and to work with their daughter or son.

By Shawn Campbell (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Our experience with this science kit leads us to believe it is a great fit for children with a passion for experimenting.  Investigations span multiple science subjects – in our sample box we utilized physics and chemistry heavily.  However, I don’t want to give you the impression there’s no room for creativity with this subscription.  There is. But there’s more of a focus on “traditional” science test than some other kits.

The STEM Lab Deluxe is geared for 7-14 year olds.  I think you could probably push both boundaries a year out depending on the child.  While younger children might not grasp everything going on in a trial, as the science mentor you’ll be there to help.  Some older kids might be doing these experiments in school – but if not they might enjoy them as well.

Who Should Pass on the STEM Lab Deluxe?

The STEM Lab Deluxe is a well-made and thorough product.  After using it myself and talking with others that tried experiments, it’s hard to think of a group that wouldn’t enjoy using it.  A too-young or old child wouldn’t like this gift.

If your child absolutely hates the idea of “science”, you might have an issue with the Spangler Science Club. It’s not that the activities themselves come off as heavy science.  I think you need to enjoy measuring and questioning to get the full experience out of this kit.

Here’s a link to our look at the entire landscape of STEM box options available if you think the STEM Lab Deluxe isn’t right for your child.

What Is In the Spangler STEMDeluxe?

The Stem Lab Deluxe subscription kit comes with documentation, consumable materials for that month’s experiments and some lab equipment to use and then keep for future work.  The idea is a child will have enough equipment for a mini-STEM lab after a 12 month subscription.  They can then take the equipment and go out on their own to explore science all around us.

Both the child and parent guides are full-color. They are organized well and are written clearly.

There are a lot of materials included in the box, but hey – the box is only so big.  With this many experiments, there should be an expectation that you’ll need to provide some of the materials yourself.  When you first look at the list, it seems long – but you’ll likely have the vast majority of the items lying around the house.  For our Kitchen Concoction list, I only needed to go out and buy 2 items on the list (OJ and the option cabbage leaves).

Considering how lean we run on baking supplies in our house, that’s not bad.

Our Hands On STEMdeluxe Review

Let me say I’m glad the Spangler Science team sent the Lab Deluxe kit.  The Deluxe carves out a spot for parents to participate in the process.  As my children are growing up, I don’t feel like I get to spend enough time with them – especially doing meaningful activities.

Going through the experiments was not only meaningful, but fun for both of us.  I think my son enjoyed showing off what he had learned, and I enjoyed watching him.  he probably would have had fun doing the work without me, but I’m glad I was able to be there.

As a 14 year old boy, there are a lot of competing toys and gadgets to take up room on a gift list.  While I knew he had fun, I wasn’t sure if it would make the cut when competing against other interests he has.  He said he definitely would enjoy getting it as a gift, but it’s not the top of his list.  He joked it’s the perfect “uncle gift” – while a kid might not ask for it, they’ll like it if they got it.

What We Liked The Best

I appreciated the level of organization in the documentation of this STEM kit.  On page 2 of the experiment guide is a nice checklist of not only the items that came with the kit but the ones you will need to provide on your own.  I really liked that we could get things together ahead of time and not have to interrupt our flow in-between the activities to hunt down an item we may or may not have.  It shows a level of professionalism.

My son commented he liked the project lengths.  Most of them were 15 minutes long or less.  He felt that was perfect because it was easier to concentrate in little bursts rather than a long, dragged out hour plus experiment.  The instructions explained exactly what to do, step-by-step with pictures to help keep us on task.

I liked that each experiment didn’t try to tackle too much at one time.  There was a scientific theme behind each.  For example, the density experiment was a good step before the buoyancy one that followed.  I’m glad they resisted the temptation to combine the ideas – it allowed us to discuss the concepts one at a time as we went forward.

What Would We Change?

There’s really nothing I saw in our experience that I would change.  My guess is that younger children would probably like a sticker or two since I’ve heard that compliant when reviewing other products.  Make no mistake, this is a high-quality STEM product.  It’s what I expected from a Spangler-branded product.

Wait…I have thought of something…The little-kid trapped in my big kid body hoped we’d have an experiment that would blow something up.  That went away when the big-kid remembered – this is my kitchen we’re playing in.

Conclusion

There’s always the risk that a product branded with a well-known personality will fall short. That’s not the case with the Spangler Science Club.  You can tell Steve is involved in this product – it really does show.

We thought you should know...
We here at Fractus Learning wish to be as transparent as possible.  We were provided one sample STEM Lab Deluxe box in order to facilitate the review. Fractus Learning did not receive any other inducement to write the review.  The opinions expressed in the article are that of our writers and editor involved in producing it.

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