There are several great reasons for owning a set of K'Nex. There are hours of fun to be had making the creations, but there is also an excellent educational component. But first, what exactly are K'Nex? They are a type of building set, but think far beyond little pieces of Lego. You can build something as relatively simple as a hammer, or as complex as a garage door or a chainsaw. These pieces fit together in such a way as to allow the parts to move and interact with each other.
The educational options can best be described by the teacher materials that are included in the set. "The K'NEX Exploring Machines set is intended to help develop students' understanding of the scientific concepts associated with simple machines. They are designed to support middle school physical science and technology curricula. Every attempt has been made to move from standard knowledge-based questioning to investigation, experimentation, and inquiry."
The Exploring Machines set includes enough pieces for four groups of students to work on the same model, or four students to work on any combination of models simultaneously. This makes it a great project for a cooperative class, or for a family to explore different. Book One has instructions for sixteen models including a hammer, balance, nutcracker, paddlewheel boat, dump truck, crank fan and transmission.
Book Two offers instructions for fourteen more models including a bottle opener, fishing rod, grand piano, crane, spiral staircase, and eggbeater. As you can see, the models get very complex, and yet the instructions provide you with all the information a middle school-aged child needs to complete the projects. Each building plan has easy-to-follow picture instructions, including a helpful diagram of the number and type of pieces that will be necessary.
The teacher's manual works through the physical science principles at work in the different uses for the model. For example, the balance teaches the effect of a balanced load and an unequal load. The very specific instructions create a great opportunity for the non-scientifically minded parent to walk through a physical science experiment with students. The worksheet that follows the teacher's instruction has them document the work and draw conclusions on what was the most efficient method.
Now, all this excellent scientific teaching material is great, BUT there is also simple fun to be had here. During the time we have had the K'NEX materials in our home, the numbers of interested participants just grows. When friends come over, I need only wait for a moment to hear, "Um, Mrs. Wheeler, would it be okay for us to get that box of really neat building things out to play with?" With supervision, even the younger ones have made IMPRESSIVE models, because the instructions are in pictures, not in words. We leave the more complex models, with rubber bands and strings for pulleys, for the older set, but the 5-10 year old group has had loads of fun with me on the living room floor.
Now, you may be thinking (like I did), "Thanks, but I don't really need another set of little pieces to get lost in my house." This set comes complete with a handy organizational box that fits the whole set, and it even includes a lid. The clean up has not been a problem at all!
This great set can be found on-line at Timberdoodle.com. The price is discounted, and the service is amazingly fast and efficient.
So, for a weekly physical science class, or a quiet, rainy day afternoon activity, the Wheelers highly recommend K'NEX Exploring Machines for your enjoyment.