Experiment Central - John T. Tanacredi - 6 Volume Set - Hardcover

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Tanacredi and Loret, experts in the fields of ecology and environmental studies, have produced a resource that the intended audience of middle-grade students will find very easy to understand. A first impression on perusing these volumes might be that they look a bit drab inside, because the photographs and drawings are all black and white. However, they are clearly written and well organized. The first few pages in each volume include the complete table of contents (both alphabetical by project name and by scientific field), a reader's guide for students and another for parents and teachers, a list of experiments by scientific field, and a glossary. At the conclusion of each volume, a "Budget Index" lists experiments from under $5 up to $31 to $35. Following this is a "Level of Difficulty Index" that sorts experiments in categories from easy to difficult. A "Timetable Index" lists the experiments according to the amount of time they should take, from less than 15 minutes to 6 months. The 50 chapters are arranged alphabetically by scientific concept, from "Acid Rain" to "Weather Forecasting." Each contains two experiments. Chapter 29, "Optics and Optical Illusion," is representative. An introduction paves the way for the experiments to follow. Words like lens and nanometer are defined briefly in "Words to Know" lists in the page margins. Experiment one is on optics and asks, "What is the focal length of a lens?" The purpose of the experiment is explained, and students are challenged to form a hypothesis, with the question of what constitutes a hypothesis clearly explained. The remainder of the text lists the level of difficulty (this particular experiment is described as being of moderate difficulty), the variables that might affect the outcome, the materials needed, an approximate budget and timetable, and step-by-step instructions that include safety suggestions. (One small criticism is in step three, where one is instructed to set up a data chart. Data chart is not defined or indexed, although there are examples shown in other chapters.) A "Troubleshooter's Guide" describes possible problems and their causes. Finally, students are guided to summarize their results and to try the experiment again by changing the variables. Following a similar presentation for experiment two, on optical illusions, the chapter concludes with a "Design Your Own Experiment" section and a brief bibliography.Students, teachers, media specialists, and librarians should find much useful material here. The extensive indexing and general organization of the information make this an inviting source that would work for grades four through six, a middle-school science laboratory, or a school library reference collection. Public libraries supporting local schools will also want to make this purchase. REVWR
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