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.
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.
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!