Electronic Gadget Workshop (courtesy of "Science for Kids" - Editorial Department)
Japanese elementary schools have a long summer vacation from late July to late August. The schools issue various pieces of homework during this period such as questions to do and picture diaries to keep. Among these is so-called "free study" where you have the freedom to choose your own topic and submit a research report, or a piece of work you have created. Workshops are held and kits are sold with the necessary tools to create electronic gadgets and carry out science experiments in order to support free study for children who are interested in science course and general science, and in making things.
Kits that let you learn while having fun
For a long time "Ant's Nest" kits have been popular - where you can observe the ants' nest and how they live. A transparent case and some sand come in the set and you put in ants that you have caught yourself in the garden or the park to take care of them. The sand is colored so you can really tell how the ants are making a nest.
The English version of “Ant World” and a shot of the ants making a nest (courtesy of Artec)
The English version of the “Planetarium” craft kit, and a shot of it projected onto a wall (courtesy of Artec)
There is also a kit for making a planetarium if you are interested in the stars and the universe. You put the parts together to make the planetarium and then you can project it onto a wall to see the changes in the starry sky for different seasons and different times.
Kits for making clay balls that look like gemstones are also popular. The clay is rolled into a ball, covered with fine sand and left to harden - then as it is polished more, it develops a glittery shine. These clay balls are built up over several days and are very beautiful.
“Clay Ball King” Kit (courtesy of Gakken)
Add water to the clay and sand and then make into a ball, cover with clay and polish with the grinder; repeat the process ten times and it gets shiny. It looks good left as the earthenware color, or you can color it blue using the powder that comes with the kit. You also need to repeat the polishing process when coloring the ball (courtesy of Gakken)
In one electronic gadget kit, there is an electronic musical instrument that you can make to play songs, with 5 buttons for the sound scale. It is small electronic gadget that can be assembled in a caramel box. And, with detailed directions for making it listed in a specialist science magazine for kids, it is said to be easy to understand - even for those trying to conquer it for the first time.
There are small electronic parts. When you assemble the various parts in the caramel box, you can make sound come out through the round speaker (courtesy of "Science for Kids" - Editorial Department)
The magazine explains how to make the electronic instrument. It also sells sets of the components (courtesy of "Science for Kids" - Editorial Department)
The front page of “Science for Kids” - a science magazine for children (courtesy of "Science for Kids" - Editorial Department)
Series of “Free Study” kits. There are various topics such as how to make a battery, or the study of ultraviolet rays etc. There are also example reports attached showing you how to put it all together to submit your own report (courtesy of Gakken)
Hands-on sessions that everyone can do together
We recommend hands-on sessions for kids who want to conquer more advanced work, or those who like to create things while listening to a direct explanation and asking questions about what they do not understand.
In Japan, mainly in the summer vacation, science and electronic gadget workshops are held on university campuses, in shopping malls and at event spaces. These have become places where you can create pieces of work to submit at school as your “free study over the summer vacation.” The teacher will teach you anything you don't understand, allowing you to even take on challenges and try difficult pieces of work.
"Electronic Gadget Workshop" for making car-robots (courtesy of Murata Manufacturing Co. Ltd.)
Workshop for making electronic gadgets, presented in "Science for Kids" (courtesy of "Science for Kids" - Editorial Department)
Free study is a first step to find an area that interests you. If you find something that you think is fun, who knows where it may lead in the future.
The bi-annual "Tokyo University of Science, Mirai Laboratory", hosted by the Tokyo University of Science, Public Information Unit and the Student Executive Committee (courtesy of Tokyo University of Science, Mirai Laboratory