Category Archives: Flotsam / Jetsam

Enhance your homeschool science class with MEL Chemistry

Disclaimer: MEL Chemistry sent Nichole a starter kit to review here at Butterscotch Sundae. All opinions are Nichole’s own, and Nichole is paying for subsequent kits.

“Can we blow stuff up?”

This is, naturally, a question one frequently fields when teaching a middle school chemistry class, and I anticipated that when I started planning our semester. So I started scouring Pinterest for experiments that walk that fine line between safe and exciting, and we started the class.

Things were going pretty well. The experiments were probably closer to the “safe” end of the spectrum than the kids had hoped for, but I felt OK about it.

And then one evening as I was browsing Pinterest, and a post about MEL Chemistry caught my eye. “Exciting experiments delivered to your door every month”? I clicked and looked around, and I was sold.

They were equal parts thrilled and nervous to wield the fire in the carbon snake experiment.
I contacted the company and explained that I was interested but wasn’t sure it would work in a class setting, and they said they’d send me the first kit to try out. A couple days later it arrived, and I was and am so impressed with it. The starter kit includes a flask and a beaker; a VR viewer; a solid-fuel stove; safety glasses; and a macro lens for your cell phone camera. They also send you two kits with the starter set, and each kit includes two experiments.

The kits include full, clear instructions and most everything you need to perform the experiments. MEL Chemistry sends enough of the reagents to be able to do each experiment twice. With 7 kids in our class, though, that’s not quite enough for everyone to do every experiment. It’s working well for us to run the experiments as Lab Demonstrations, with two kids doing the work and the others either observing or working as photographers and videographers.

The included camera phone lenses have proven to be popular.

So far we’ve made fiery little carbon snakes and a foam eruption from the Chemistry of Monsters kit and a wee little hedgehog from the Tin kit. The kids enjoyed the carbon snake and the foam eruption a bit more than the tin and zinc “hedgehog” — because of the fire and movement — but I thought the formation of the spikes on a little ball of zinc was pretty incredible.

The carbon snake was very cool and somewhat creepy, though.

MEL Chemistry has made 80 virtual reality lessons, and the ones I was able to check out were phenomenal. The atom structure and electron orbital lessons were particularly great for helping the kids visualize a pretty esoteric concept. With the kits and the virtual reality lessons, I think this could be a complete chemistry curriculum. Unfortunately, the cost of the full VR license — $499 for 10 devices for a year — is far out of my price range. Some of the VR content is available just by downloading the MEL Science app, though, and the lessons available are well worth the download.

A MEL Chemistry kit subscription is $35 per month for a single set of experiments or $50 per month for two sets each month. I don’t think the kits alone would be sufficient for a full year of middle school science on their own, but they sure are a fun complement to whatever chemistry curriculum you’re using. The glassware and other hardware is excellent quality, and I love that they include all of the chemical materials you need as well.

The only thing on my MEL wishlist (other than $500 for a VR license) is that it would be nice to be able to choose the order in which the experiments arrive so I could make sure they correspond to what the kids are learning that week. I’m going to subscribe even without that option, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing what lab demos MEL Chemistry drops on my porch over the coming year!

I found the perfect gift for the sports fanatic in your life

Disclaimer: You Gotta Know sent Nichole a product to review here at Butterscotch Sundae and compensated her for her time. All opinions are Nichole’s own.

You know that person in your life who always wears their team’s colors on game day? The guy who can recite their favorite point guard’s stats from the 1987-88 season? The girl who can rattle off every minor league ballpark affiliation in the National League? You Gotta Know has the perfect gift for that person. (It is too early to talk about holiday gifts, friends, but sports fans also have birthdays.) I know several such people, and I also know they don’t read my blog so I feel pretty safe telling you I’ll be buying a couple of these later this year.

Pop quiz!

What three-word Ernie Banks catchphrase typically followed “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame…”?1)“Let’s play two!”

What Wrigley Field staple was planted in 1937 by manager Bill Veeck?2)Ivy!

What team defeated the Bulls in the Eastern Conference playoffs three seasons in a row from 1988-1990?3)The Detroit Pistons!

In 2013, who started in net for all 23 Blackhawks playoff games?4)Corey Crawford!

You Gotta Know games sports triviaYou Gotta Know Games send me a copy of their Chicago Sports Trivia Game (The Ultimate Trivia Game for the Chicago Sports Fan!), and three of the questions above were some of the only ones I could answer. And you guys? There are 500 questions in the game. Uber-Cubs fan Rockford won pretty easily, but there were definitely some Blackhawks questions that tripped him up.

You don’t have to be a Chicago fan to play, though. There are more than 20 locations in their portfolio, so you and your favorite sports fan are covered all the way from Boston to Seattle!

I can see this being a lot of fun to play at a sports bar or during commercial breaks when you’re watching a game at home. Game play is really straight forward: You read the questions, and the first player to get 21 points wins. Easy-peasy — so long as you know everything about your area’s sports teams and their history, of course.

Please know, dear readers, that it took a lot of restraint for me to use neither “touchdown” nor “homerun” to describe these games. Whoops, so much for that restraint. One might also call them a 3-pointer at the buzzer or a reverse breakout ice razzamattazz. (One might be correct in assuming I don’t know anything about hockey.)

You Gotta Know sports trivia games are only $20 each, and you can get them at You Gotta Know Games or at Rally House.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. “Let’s play two!”
2. Ivy!
3. The Detroit Pistons!
4. Corey Crawford!

The Ghosts of November Sixteenths Past

Here we are in the middle of National Blog Posting Month, which is traditionally the time when I have a hard time coming up with something to write about. So let’s see what I shared on previous Novembers 16th.

In 2008, we learned that I didn’t like “Babel.”

In 2009, I made and did not care for lamb kheema.

In 2010, I was looking for a good Christmas gift.

In 2011, I drew a hedgehog.

In 2012, I shared some links. How original!

In 2013, I bought a car and almost forgot to post.

In 2014, I shared some posts that were abandoned in my drafts file.

In 2015, I was talking tacos. At least I’m consistent.

In 2016, we took another dive into the drafts.

Now I’m going to log off and recharge so I can find some more words for tomorrow and the rest of November.