Friday, September 28, 2012

Box of Ideas
There is something about getting a package in the mail that makes one giddy.  You want to rip open your package and enjoy whatever surprise awaits you inside.  Such was the case when we received the Box of Ideas package in the mail to review.    I sat the box unopened on the desk in the kitchen and each member of my family asked, “what’s that?”  However, the lucky kid who would actually get to use the box asked, “is that for me?”  With my “yes” she was off to discover and explore the contents of that mysterious box.

BoxofIdeas_SaltBox.jpg I didn’t examine the box with my 11 year old initially but I let her discover it on her own.  The next two days I heard “mom, this is soooo cool!”  I saw charts and documents on my fridge that she added to on a daily basis.  I saw her examining nutrition labels before eating and working undeterred at her desk with that big white box.  Now, I had to discover for myself what all the excitement was about.

We reviewed the Salt Box.  The rectangular shaped black and white box includes 10 self contained modules that delves into the history, geography, language, science, and other topics related to salt.  Who knew there was so much to learn about salt?  Each module is neatly packaged with everything you need for that particular module.  There is a background sheet with information to read including links to further investigate the topic.  After the reading, there is a hands-on activity to reinforce the concept the student just read about.  You don’t have to do the modules in order but my dear daughter started with Module 1 – Need For Salt. 

In this module, she was able to read about the human body’s need for salt and was sent on a trip to investigate the sodium content of the foods we most commonly eat.  This led to a trip through my pantry which she listed, on a chart provided with the module, all the foods we had that were high in sodium and low in sodium.  There were also two colorful food sheets which are now on my fridge, that lists the sodium content of common foods including foods from McDonald’s, Pizza hut, Subway, and Taco Bell. 

She worked independently on the first 3 modules of the Box.  She placed all of her findings from these modules in a 3 ring binder.  It is an impressive presentation of colorful bar charts that show where so much of the Earth’s salt is produced, an article of salt mines in the news, and pictures of salt habitats.  Great stuff!  One module included a game board and a map for the student to match salt facts presented on card stock with the country the fact referred to.  The game activity left room for the student to include facts of their own but my daughter was inspired to take the concept to create her own “matching” game.  This module sparked a lot of her own creativity and reinforced our own geography lessons as we are focusing on countries and cultures this year.  I love when this happens – cross curriculum reinforcement.  

At this point, I jumped into the box (well, not literally) to discover it for myself.  My daughter wanted to do the last module which included an experiment which examined the question of which salt has the greatest affect on the freezing point of ice.  This exercise was a gentle introduction to the world of science labs which she will do next year in 7th grade.  She had to predict what she thought would happen and record her results and her experiment form.

We have thoroughly enjoyed this curriculum.  I believe it falls into the category of being a unit study.  I know there are more themed boxes in development.  Ideally, each box focuses on the age range of 9-16. Currently you can purchase Salt, World Word II, Eleven, Quilting, Pigs and Laundry – such a random list of topics.  The Box of Ideas curriculum box can be purchased at for $79 or you can purchase the PDF download for $49.  In my opinion, opening the box and discovering all of the units is part of the fun.  It is great to further delve into a topic that may be briefly covered in one’s main curriculum or to completely go down a rabbit trail and discover something new.  This is how we used this curriculum – a rabbit trail adventure. 

My 6th grader often finishes her work before everyone else.  She likes to stay on task and checks off the boxes on her weekly lesson grid.  It is motivating for her to know that she has completed everything on time or ahead of time.  Most kids would read but she isn’t an avid reader.  Having something like Box of Ideas is just what she needs when she is finished all of her school work.   It is engaging, educational, and fun.

The only one suggestion I would make to improve the curriculum is to label each module 1-10.  Sometimes it was hard to know which module we had completed and which one we wanted to discover next.  We had to open the plastic holder and look inside to see if we had in fact completed that module.  A number system would help to keep it all straight.  Otherwise each module was nicely packaged with labels listing what was inside and what was needed to complete it.  

See what my other "crew mates" thoughts of Box of Ideas here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

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