Thinktank Home Educator Day

A triceratops skull at Thinktank in Birmingham

One of the exhibits at Thinktank

Lyle and I visited Thinktank in Birmingham on Tuesday, for one of their Home Educator workshop days. We really enjoyed it, and Lyle learned a lot about Science while having a lot of fun!

Science is one area of Home Education that I like to get some outside help with – while we can cover a lot of the theory and some practical work at home, there’s nothing quite like getting in a lab with someone who is really enthusiastic about the subject. So the Home Educator days at Thinktank are really ideal for our requirements.

This was the second time that Lyle and I had been to one of these workshop days and after our visit in October, we were really looking forward to going back there.

In Your Element

Lyle’s first session today was called ‘In your element’ and we were told to expect something of a Chemistry focus to the session. We all got kitted out with labcoats and safety goggles, and split into four tables. No, there isn’t a photo of me in my safety kit…

Lyle in his labcoat and safety goggles

Lyle in his lab safety gear

The workshop leader first put up a slide of the periodic table, and talked briefly about the elements and how they are arranged within the periodic table. We discussed what elements are, how reactive different elements may be, and also how dense they are. To illustrate this, each table was given a selection of liquids and asked to work out which order they needed to be put into the beaker. Lyle and the two girls on his table worked well together to complete this task (with a little help from the parents!)

A liquid density tower - from golden syrup at the bottom to surgical spirit at the top

A liquid density tower – from golden syrup at the bottom to surgical spirit at the top

We were then shown how to make a ‘lava lamp’ using vegetable oil, coloured water and a vitamin C tablet. Lyle carefully completed this experiment, which he was quite impressed by and asked if we could try it at home some time.

A 'lava lamp' experiment using vegetable oil, water and a vitamin C tablet

A ‘lava lamp’ experiment using vegetable oil, water and a vitamin C tablet

The final part of this workshop involved using warm water and yeast as a catalyst. This was then used to extract oxygen from hydrogen peroxide in a bottle. Our own experiment didn’t work too well (we think we needed more warm water), but the larger scale demonstration of the experiment was quite dramatic!!

Lyle really enjoyed this session and would like to do more of this in the future.


We weren’t too impressed by the second session, which was called ‘Moonbots’. We thought that we were going to learn about the difficulties of sending crafts to the Moon, but actually it was more about using the Lego Mindstorm robots. It was good fun, but with the session only lasting 45 minutes we didn’t get much chance to complete the tasks which were set.

After that session, we had a lunch break, and were able to spend time looking around the rest of the exhibits in the museum. Last time we visited, Lyle and I spent much of our time looking around the lower levels of the building. So this time we looked at the medical exhibits and the space exploration exhibits. Lyle really enjoyed the robots and learning about the International Space Station, but was a bit squeamish about the film of a hip replacement operation!

The hip replacement operation film was a bit too graphic for Lyle!

The hip replacement operation film was a bit too graphic for Lyle!

Bend It, Shape It

The final session of the day was called ‘Bend it, Shape it’ and was all about light, lenses and telescopes. This was Lyle’s favourite session, and he was really enthusiastic about the topics discussed. First, we had a demonstration which showed that light travels in a straight line, using laser pointers, mirrors and a water spray! We also learned about how telescopes were invented, and how convex and concave lenses affect the path of a beam of light. Lyle and I then got to make a simple telescope as well as using a drop of water on a glass plate as a magnifying glass.

We brought the telescope home with us, and Lyle is very enthusiastic about using it to look at the Moon. I think this may be a topic we look into in more detail in the future!

I think that is one of the most valuable aspects of these Home Educator days – not only does Lyle learn a lot while we are on site, but they also show him different Science topics that he finds exciting and interesting, and stimulate his love of learning.



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