How MEL Science kits have transformed experiments
MEL Science kits are making a name for themselves as one of the most innovative resources for science teachers out there at the moment – particularly in KS2 and KS3. QA Education editor Victoria Galligan spoke to Edd Stockwell, Head Of Partnerships at the company, to find out how the science kits are helping teachers and inspiring students across the world…
As a child of the 80s, I have fond memories of chemistry sets – sitting at the kitchen table trying to work out how to blow up my big brother’s toys was a favourite pastime of mine. But things have come a long way in those 30 years – and one company is not only providing the magic of science investigations in its kits but using edtech alongside to help children deepen their understanding of the science behind the experiments.
MEL Science has become the go-to supplier for the modern chemistry set – as long as you like your chemistry exciting, colourful and engaging. What started out as a product to enable children to further their science education at home, has evolved to become a convenient resource for teaching chemistry in primary schools.
The free starter kits which are sent out when the subscription begins contain supporting equipment such as beakers and a solid fuel burner for experiments which require an open flame – as well as a VR headset to view the specially created videos interactive experiences which support the learning.
A wide series of chemistry sets can then be ordered, from Chemistry of Plants to Corrosion, and supporting resources such as videos, lesson plans and information cards complement the experiments and extend the learning.
Edd says: “The kits are easy to do and they’re fun. Because they involve hands-on activity they make science theory, which can be hard to visualise, really come alive. The maker movement is a really good example of this – how using equipment such as Lego to build robots boosts engagement and encourages learning.
“With practical experiments, you can see the delight on the children’s faces when they see the science working for themselves.”
Breaking down barriers which prevent effective science teaching
The founders of MEL Science are a small team which includes scientists, programmers and educators. Some were medal-winners in chemistry and physics Olympiad competitions in the US. Edd says when they became parents and saw the barriers between the children and the science, they took action: “They were appalled by the level of science being taught in schools. They saw teachers struggling with the subjectpracticals (hands-on lab experiments) and delivering lessons which weren’t great.”
So MEL Science was formed and the home science kits were borne – but sourcing thousands of tiny bottles of various chemicals and other small-scale chemistry and physics equipment was not an easy task. The solution? To create a factory which produced parts specifically for the MEL Science kits.
Edd said: “There’s a factory in Russia where about 100 people work, making and bottling chemicals and other resources for the kits.”
The MEL Science kits place the control into the pupils’ hands and nurture a can-do attitude when it comes to science. As the original kits proved a hit with parents – including many home educators – teachers began using in schools.
Edd says: “MEL Science kits have proved popular with teachers because there’s a real need for them – children want to learn about science and technology, but teachers perhaps aren’t so confident in delivering the lessons and haven’t got the time or the budget to go out and source all the different products needed – chemicals, electrics, metals etc. Primary schools generally don’t have a science technician or a well-stocked laboratory to enable them to prepare an experiment quickly.
“Our resources are all there in one box – they’re easy for teachers to pick up on the way out of the houseoff the shelf and get going with the experiments. It’s super convenient and saves teachers time.”
High-quality supporting resources include VR lessons
As the kits come with information cards and supporting technology, lesson planning and preparation is minimal. The step-by-step instructions, tips and troubleshooting advice are all online. There are lesson plans and activity sheets available which can be stored in the cloud so teachers can send them straight to pupils digitally. There’s an app which can be used alongside the experiments, which is the platform for 309 VR lessons. These are three to seven minutes long and are incredibly immersive – truly bringing science alive for the pupils.
Edd said: “The VR helps children to understand what’s going on in the experiment. For example, molecules which show how solids, liquids and gases are made up bounce around on screen and the pupils can zoom in, view the chemical make-up on the periodic table, answer quiz questions – it’s bonkers how immersive the VR is! It tells the story of science and unlocks understanding. Therefore the science behind the experiments becomes intuitive to the pupils.”
Newly-launched MEL Kids kits are aimed at younger children, with Pressure, Sounds, Aerodynamics and Reactive motion the current topics – more Kids topics will be coming soon.
The social media posts which MEL Science produce are really worth a watch – they show how the experiments work in bitesized-videos which are animated to explain the science. The videos have become so popular that MEL Science now has 2.2million followers across the globe. One, entitled ‘The secret of the aluminium can: what is it hiding?’, shows the corrosion of a Coke can – I won’t give away the ending! – and has been viewed nearly over 380,000100m times. Edd says: “We’re one of the biggest chemistry communicators in the world.”
MELel Science won the Bett 2020 Innovator of the Year award and it’s easy to see why. Schools which want to boost their science learning should take a look at this game-changing resource. Not only are MEL Science kits providing all-important experiential learning, but they’re enabling staff to deliver extremely effective lessons supported by high-quality resources.
Free science lessons from MEL Science
Earlier this year, MEL Science launched free online science lessons with practical experiments that students can carry out at home during lockdown.
School and class closures mean that many science teachers and parents are wondering how to handle practical hands-on experiments for students at home. Against a backdrop of a $1bn market increase in STEM toys from 2019-2023, MEL Science has seen a tenfold increase in demand for its home science kits in the past two weeks alone.
MEL Science, an established expert in the development of hands-on science kits for home use, has launched MEL Academy, a series of webinars delivered by science teachers giving online science lessons and hands-on demonstrations for students aged 5-16 years.
With students now learning from home, potentially for several months, this is ideal for science teachers and parents, keen to provide remote learning resources aligned to curriculum standards.
For the next three months, the compelling webinars will cover the core curriculum science learning objectives, through hands-on practicals, theory, and digital resources. MEL Science’s virtual reality app with award winning science simulations will also be free, enabling students to build and play with science at a micro level.
“Doing hands-on science is magical for kids; it sparks their curiosity, their eyes light up and their confidence builds. It’s hard to set up practical experiments at home, which is why MEL Academy has been designed to bring scientists into your kitchen to do these experiments with you, and answer questions in real time,” said, Vassili Philippov, CEO of MEL Science.
The experiments can easily be carried out in a kitchen with basic ingredients. For those wanting a higher level of learning, the MEL Science subscription kit offers additional experiments that can be carried out during the webinar. Please visit free home science experiments here to preview more than 200 experiments. To register for MEL Academy please see the online schedule.