I went through my list of labs and made a list of all the things we used and thought about what a family could do if they were just doing physics on their own and didn’t want to spend a lot of money. My first thought is that everyone should buy the Optics Discovery kit, its the best $25 I ever spent. I’ve used the materials in that kit over and over and over again. It also comes with nice instructions for quick experiments. If you buy this kit you’l have optics well covered. A Snap Circuits or other electronics kit could be used for electricity, but if you’re kid isn’t that interested in electronics you can make do with a few batteries and flashlight bulbs for some simple circuits or use some apps/websites for virtual circuit labs. For mechanics you can do a lot with just an iPad and the Video Physics app, along with a ruler/meterstick and a ball, toy car or marble runs. Here’s a list of equipment that’s useful for a year of physics labs. I left off the more expensive items like the air track and Go Direct sensors that I use with my classes that aren’t necessary. I also left off some of the equipment for labs that I didn’t feel worked all that well or could be left out. Items that are bold are things that I feel are required for a minimum physics lab experience. I probably missed a few things but this list should at least give you an idea about what you need to do the physics labs discussed in my blog.
- iPad ($) & Video Physics App ($5) – Velocity, Falling Objects, Energy
- Spring scale $5 – Forces/ramps lab
- Slotted hooked weight set $14 or at HST, Energy , Friction, Pendulum
- meterstick $10
- pulley with table clamp $9 (if you have legos you might be able to build your own) – Friction
- string, ball, toy car (lego vehicle) or marble run
- board for a ramp – wood, white board, even a cookie sheet would do – Friction lab, Forces/ramp lab
- wooden blocks & sandpaper – Friction lab
- 60cc plastic syringe with cap $2.30 + mini marshmallows for Pressure demo
- empty soda cans – for crushing cans with air pressure.
- Hot Ice kit $30 – I got multiple uses out of this kit, 3 or 4 perhaps. Hot Ice demo.
- windbags $4 (for 4), Solar bag $17, or classroom kit for $50 – fun for a park day.
- extra long slinky $7 – Waves lab
- tuning fork $9 or at HST – and some kind of plastic tube for Resonance lab
- Optics Discovery Kit by OSA $25 – Color lab, Lenses
- laser pointer $15, LEDs & Laser lab, Light Lab
- acrylic lens & prism set $20 – Optics Lab, Light Lab
- flat mirror $2 – Optics Lab w/ruler, protractor, pin, small bit of clay/playdoh
- Snap Circuits Light kit (other any other snap circuits) $60
- magnet wire 28AWG $10 Electromagnetism Lab
- Neodymium disc magnets 0.5″, 2 pack $6.50 – Electromagnetism Lab
- fun fly stick $14 Electric fields lab (lettuce seeds, mineral oil and metal hanger)
- iron filings $7 or a smaller quantity at HST $2.40 – Magnet lab
- iron nail (hardward store if you don’t have one in garage) – Magnet Lab
- wire – Magnet Lab
- alligator clips , paper clips and batteries- Magnet Lab
- Static Electricity Study kit $12 HST – this is looks like a nice little kit with fur and rods if you don’t want to find the stuff yourself – though a balloon and your head would probably suffice.
- M&Ms or pennies for radioactive decay activity
- Spectroscope analysis kit $26 (this is a very cool kit and has enough chemicals that you can use it many times, like when studying Chemistry, or share with fellow homeschoolers). You can use a candle for your fire source if you don’t have a burner. – can be done as part of Seeing Color lab or when talking about atoms.