Thursday, October 4, 2012

REVIEW: Salt Box by Box of I.D.E.As.


We were fortunate to get to review the Salt Box by Box of I.D.E.As.

FROM THE WEBSITE:
 
Box of IDEAs are ideal for teaching multi level students, focusing on age 9 to 16. Designed to get kids off the computer and around the table, Box of IDEAS are great to supplement your current curriculum but can also be used for homeschool group activity, summertime learning and as a break from the normal routine.

Each Box of IDEAS...

  • is easily portable to provide excellent waiting room and traveling activities to create learning opportunities on the go.

  • is filled with interesting topic-focused activity based learning.

  • contains 10 (and sometimes more) modules with exercises designed around a captivating aspect of the Box topic

  • provides 10 (or more) engaging and thought provoking portfolio pieces to record the student's journey through the box.

  • is packed with many additional ideas and suggestions for delving deeper into an area of interest.

  • has a variety of thoroughly researched web links to encourage further exploration of the topics.

  • A timed SAT style summary test is included in each box

Salt (Physical Box) - $79.00

Our Salt Box of IDEAs is a comprehensive look at salt and how it has helped to shape history, nourish our bodies and even build and destroy empires. This Box delves into history, geography, science, language, political systems and much more. Salt—something that your children see and probably use every single day—can be a wonderful stepping stone to opening their minds to so very much. Modules include:  

The History Of Salt - A gateway to learning world history through the ages. Take a ‘salty journey’ through time! This module gives an overview of how salt has had an influence in the world in so many ways - from building empires to starting wars. The portfolio piece gives your child a chance to use their imagination and recreate history how THEY want to do it while the chronology of the activity portion helps them to learn the sequence of world events while having fun playing a game.  

The Science Of Salt - Bring science into your home through experiments with salt. Make science FUN! All the supplies are included in this module to allow your kids to set up their own 'laboratory' and investigate the answers to some burning salt questions! A lab write up encompasses the portfolio piece to go along with the actual experiment activity.  

The Salt March - An entre into the history of India and Mahatma Ghandi, one of history’s most important figures. The history of India is long and storied and this module will open doors for you to direct your kids to a more in depth investigation of this most interesting place - from civil disobedience to a culture so different from their own. The portfolio piece is a matching exercise while the factual chronology of the activity that deals directly with the Salt March itself will give them greater understanding into this singular act of civil disobedience that helped free a country from foreign rule.  

The Salt of the Earth - Your children will love learning about their own country and those around the world as well when they become part of the investigation to find out where exactly salt is produced. A huge variety of countries are involved in salt production and through the portfolio piece, which teaches graphing skills, to the activity mapping exercise, your kids will enjoy their hunt for the highest, and lowest, salt producing countries of the world.  

Need For Salt - Humans and other animals need salt to live - without it we would cease to function. The key is to get enough without getting too much. In an effort to teach responsible nutrition and give your kids the ability to quickly and easily read food labels, this module delves into how much is too much and what we actually require. By finding and listing high and low sodium foods and then making up a daily meal plan while keeping within certain limits, kids can acquire a skill that will serve them well for a lifetime of healthy eating.  

Preserving With Salt - When mankind realized that food could be preserved with salt, the whole world changed. People were suddenly not tied down to one place, exploration was suddenly possible and making it through the winter a more likely event. This module concentrates on food safety and the facts of preservation - the why and the how as well as key terms. Math skills come into effect in the portfolio piece while the fast paced board game will make learning the facts of preservation lots of fun!  

Too Much Salt - While most people are aware of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, many don't realize just how common salt lakes are. They are a source of salt and a source of life for many creatures. Your children will learn all about salt lakes and their functions as well as how they are formed in this informative module. They will use critical math skills and logic to solve problems regarding volume, area and salinity.  

The Wall That Salt Built - Take your kids on a Chinese adventure! While most know of the Great Wall, few are aware of salt's role in its formation. The portfolio is designed to make your children use their minds to understand why salt was so important while the activity portion of the module concentrates on the construction of the wall itself over hundreds and hundreds of years.  

Where Salt Lives - Salt can be found in several different places from which is it extracted for our use. This module will take you and your kids to all the places that salt lives before it travels to your local grocery store! The portfolio exercise will have your children critically reading a newspaper article regarding salt mining and then answering detailed questions about what they have read. The activity deals with all of the places salt can be found and your child must reason as to where each fact is referring.

The Language of Salt - Salt proliferates our language and that of languages the world over. Whether a single word, an idiom or a place name, salt is everywhere attesting to its importance throughout history. This module gives an overview of how salt helped to form many common sayings, names and words. The portfolio challenges your child to decipher the meaning behind some common salt phrases while the activity has them matching words, phrases and place names with their definitions and origins.


OUR EXPERIENCE:
 
I absolutely loved that this product arrives ready-to-use.  One thing that keeps me from doing unit types of studies is the materials you must gather together to complete a unit.  That’s not so with Box of I.D.E.As!  The physical box arrives containing 10 large individual Ziploc bags, and each bag contains absolutely everything you need to complete a module.  The fact cards are sturdy, the photos are clear and vivid, and all of the instructional materials are printed and ready to go.  At any time, you can randomly grab a module and complete it in about 1-2 hours from our experience. 

Let’s take a look at a couple of the modules we completed to give you an idea of what is included in a module and what kinds of study are involved.

Where Salt Lives was the first module we examined.  On the Introduction sheet, we started out by reading a bit about the different ways that salt can be extracted from its three sources.  This was pretty interesting!  We had never studied anything about salt before, so this was all new information to us. 

Hayden got to read an included article called Salt Mine in the News.  After reading the article, there was a sheet of questions he had to complete.  Hayden enjoyed the article, and I liked the fact that it gave him practice in reading comprehension.

In the Extensions section, we looked online to find out where the closest salt mine was located.  We analyzed from what we read what the most efficient and most expensive extraction methods would be, and Hayden researched online to verify his thoughts.  Then he was excited to make his own solar evaporator.  Unfortunately, we had tons of rain and overcast skies for a couple of weeks straight, so it took a while to see this process in action.

In the Web Links section, we were able to go online and watch a video of a salt harvest, pictures of a salt mine, and read a discussion on salt domes and how they relate to oil dDSCF2089eposits. 
Also included in this module was a Salt Habits Activity Mat.  This was a page of beautiful illustrations showing the three sources of salt along with a set of fact cards.  The object of this activity was to have Hayden read each fact and reason out which of the three salt sources to which it pertained.  He had to sort the cards into those three piles and then flip them over at the end to match up the photos and see if he was correct in his reasoning.  He enjoyed this activity a lot and only missed one!

Another module we completed was The Wall That Salt Built.  We did a great amount of study on China and the Great Wall in our study of countries in the Eastern Hemisphere a few years ago, so Hayden was very interested in testing out his knowledge with this one.  On the Information Sheet, we read about salt’s impact on the building of the Great Wall of China and the wall’s long-term purpose. 

In the Extensions section, it suggested that we find out what other trade items China used other than salt, do some reading about the Ming Dynasty in China, and explain why Marco Polo was important in European and Chinese history.  We have studied so much about China in the past that we were able to answer most of these without doing additional research, and it was nice to see what we remembered on these topics.  We ended up using these as more of discussion topics than research opportunities.

In the Web Links section, we got to look at different materials used to construct the Great Wall, read information about Chinese culture over time, and look at links regarding modern Chinese history.
Also included in this module was a card game.  A whole page of instructions for play and scoring were included, bDSCF2090ut we chose to use the cards a little differently.  Instead of turning it into a card game with multiple players, I had Hayden spread out the decks on the table and manually match the Centuries, Components, and Sections cards into sets and read the facts again in matching sets.  Hayden found this to be a difficult task.  I tried to help him with it and found it difficult, as well.  I’m not sure we understood how to identify which cards matched, as there were no indicators on the backs of the cards as to what constituted a correct match.  So we concluded that in the card game, you probably achieved a match just by having a card from each category to place down in a set.  So our plan of action changed, and we decided just to read the facts on the cards.  The facts were very interesting in and of themselves, so even doing it this way had redeeming value to us.  We learned a lot about the different sections of the wall.  We hadn’t realized prior to this module that the Great Wall was actually a bunch of shorter walls joined together.  You learn something new every day!

In the other modules, we encountered a broad range of activities, including science experiments, a board game, a laminated meal planner with dry erase marker (to record what you eat and analyze the salt content), and additional card activities.  I think the next module we plan to complete will be The Language of Salt.  Hayden told me he’s looking forward to trying out his understanding of the idioms that contain the word salt.  I think I’ll enjoy that one myself!

Who knew there was so much to learn about salt and its many impacts on history, science, and language?  The Salt Box of I.D.E.As. will surely change the way you think about salt.  Personally, I never gave it much thought before using this product, but now we see how much a part of our lives it really is.

The bottom line is that these modules and activities provide real learning in a fun and very engaging way.  I love that each module is self-contained and includes everything you need to do the activities so that it’s truly “grab and go.”  What a fun way to broaden your thinking and explore a topic!  You can think of each module as a sort of mini unit study.  You can spend as much or as little time on it as you choose, picking and choosing the extentions and activities you want your child to complete.  I wanted this to be fun, so I chose to let Hayden direct his own learning with these and do the portions he was most interested in doing. 

Another nice feature of the Box of I.D.E.As. is that there is an exam included for the student to fill out after completing all of the modules.  A teacher’s answer key is also provided.  This is a nice way to sum up the learning and see how much your child retained from the many modules of information.
The physical box I received costs $79.00, but you can also order the downloadable .pdf version to print at home for a reduced cost of $49.00.  Just weigh in your mind the value of your time and materials in printing, prepping, providing game pieces, and supplies for experiments.  In my family, my time is a valuable commodity, and I think I’d be far less likely to use the modules if I had to prepare them and gather materials myself.  The quality of the photos was really vivid, and all of the cards were printed on heavy cardstock.  The materials were durable, and I could use them again and again.  That difference in cost of $30 could make the difference between using it or not using it due to the time and preparation involved in setting it up.

This product was so wonderful that I hate to mention such a small error, but one of my modules was mislabeled.  It should have said Very Salty but instead was mislabeled as History of Salt.  The sticky label on each bag gives you a summary of its contents so you don’t have to pull everything out to decide if you want to choose the activity.  This is a very minor error, but I thought I should mention it since I’m reviewing the product.  This in no way affected its use but was obviously just an oversight in packaging. 

Also, we initially noticed that there was no answer key included for the individual modules, so as a parent, you’d have to read the modules and check the answers yourself. When this was pointed out by reviewers, however, the vendor did email us an answer key to the questions for the whole Salt Box during the review period. I think it’s normally included and was inadvertently left out of the review kits. 

If you enjoy shorter cross-curricular unit studies that can be completed in a couple of hours, then the Box of I.D.E.As. products are right up your alley!  They have a variety of topics to choose from including World War Two, Quilting, Laundry, Eleven, Pearl Harbor, and many more to come.  They are intended for ages 9-16.  If you’d like to read about the Salt Box or the Pearl Harbor Box, then click the banner below to check out what other Crew members had to say.

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I received the physical Salt Box free of charge for review purposes, but all opinions are mine and reflect my family’s honest use of the product.