SCIENCEWORKS: 65 EXPERIMENTS THAT INTRODUCE THE FUN AND WONDER OF SCIENCE from the Ontario Science Centre (Addison-Wesley: $7.95; 86 pp.; age 8 up). The Ontario Science Centre in Canada understands how children need to touch, prod and play with things as they journey toward discovery. As a result, it has filled a vast arcade with hundreds of hands-on exhibits so visitors can learn the joy of science by doing instead of just watching.
Obviously, not all children will be able to explore Ontario, but they can share its spirit through this enthusiastic paperback compiled at the center. Every page features a jovial line drawing by Tina Holdcroft, who has carefully included an equal number of girls among the demonstrating scientists. As the title suggests, there are 65 experiments, tricks and puzzles, all of which are workable from ordinary household items, and most of which have enough zing to be a challenge.
Would-be detectives will want to make the milk carton periscope for spying around corners or the fingerprinting kit to catch sneaky siblings. There are tips on writing secret messages with invisible ink and on how to keep a lion tied up. The Great Outdoors section shows how to make a sundial and how to clock the Earth's speed with a solar speedometer, then further use the sun for cooking, heating and purifying water. One of the most interesting and important projects is the Reverse Garden where various inanimate objects are buried. After 30 days, the child exhumes and observes, thereby learning the difference between biodegradable and nonbiodegradable and hopefully applying the principle when camping. This awareness could be the springboard for conservation and a sensitivity vital to our planet's survival.
The experiments seem safe enough, but the publisher and center disclaim liability for any possible damage. It is a good idea for an adult to be nearby since some ingredients (scissors, mothballs, glass) could be harmful to curious toddlers.