Box of I.D.E.As. are a collection of modules which can be completed in any order, although ones like Pearl Harbor are better completed in order. Each module contains a page of information, a game, web links for further research, and suggestions for extension activities. Each Box of I.D.E.As. is intended to be used as an enrichment activity to go along with current studies or as a break from the regular routine. At the end of all the modules, students should complete a notebook or portfolio of their projects to showcase their learning. Box of I.D.E.As. has boxes covering topics like salt, quilts, laundry, and the number 11 which are not typically considered academic subjects as well as others like World War Two-Pearl Harbor which is obviously history. Each box is designed to be used with students ages 9-16 and are intended to be easily portable. Pearl Harbor costs $49 for the pdf download and $79 for the physical box.
I received the pdf download of the Pearl Harbor unit which contained all 10 modules to review. Each module includes a paragraph or two about the topic, a couple of extension activity suggestions which are designed to help a student dig deeper into the topic, a couple of website suggestions, notebooking pages, instructions for games, and game cards to be printed in color on cardstock, cut out, and assembled. Many of the extension activities included researching a topic and writing about it. The unit starts before Pearl Harbor becomes a base and gives a brief overview of the significance of Pearl Harbor. It then chronicles the history of Pearl Harbor through the days leading up to the attack through a decade after the attack. The unit also includes a timed multiple choice and essay test following all the modules as well.
Tiger was really excited to receive the Pearl Harbor unit when it arrived. His interest quickly waned as he began the modules. He struggled to understand the big picture as he progressed through them, probably due to the rather small amount of information presented in each module and his lack of previous knowledge about the time period. He also struggled to understand how some of the card games were related to the informational paragraph presented. For example, the second module is about becoming a base. It talks about why the US felt a need to have a Naval presence in the area. The activity had to do with products made from whaling and Maury maps. While the primary reason for becoming a base involved whaling, there was no mention of Maury maps in the reading. The lack of mention of Maury maps as well as his lack of a point of reference for items like panniers and corsets made the game difficult to play. Maybe if I had known to skip the first couple of modules, he would have maintained his enthusiasm. Even so, he still tells me he wants to work on Pearl Harbor.
I liked the illustrations in each module. They were beautiful, vibrant, and often included historical pictures. I felt that the breadth of information was well conceived and the games were mostly fun to play. Some of the games were easy enough for Tiger to play with his younger sisters while remaining relevant to the topic. Tiger is 10.5 now and found some of the games to be very simple (like matching, a variation of Go Fish, memory, questions and answers, and puzzles). I wonder how a 15 or 16 year old would feel about the games. Also, each game is a card game. It would have been nice to do some different activities besides a card game with each module.
For the cost I was a little disappointed in the depth of some of the materials. Some of the modules had less than three-quarters of a page of information. Some of the modules never touched on the information needed to appreciate the games except if a website suggestion to explore. This aspect made the Pearl Harbor unit a little less than portable as we needed a computer with internet access to be able to utilize it fully. The websites listed did add significantly to the modules, but not all of them were age appropriate for the entire span of recommended ages. For example, in the Before the Base module, there is a scholarly study citing the historical and present status of pearl oysters near the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Although Tiger tends to be advanced in many subjects, his eyes glazed over just looking at the page and he wanted nothing to do with reading the article. In truth, I, with a college degree, who loves history and am interested in the history of the pearl oysters, had a hard time wanting to read the article. Other websites, like one in the module on the Day of Infamy, were interactive and a great resource for all ages. Similarly, some of the notebook pages seemed rather simplistic and others seemed much more well thought out. For example the notebook page for Before Becoming a Base involved measuring the sizes of pearls in pictures. Tiger didn’t really see the point in the exercise. The notebook page for Day of Infamy required the student to read the speech given by President Roosevelt and then answer a series of thoughtful questions.
I really really wanted to recommend this product without any reservations. I think Box of IDEAs has an excellent idea and I find the topics available from the company intriguing. However, I think Pearl Harbor needs a little bit more work to make the product worth the price. I did not feel it really was very portable as advertised because, as I mentioned, in order to really get much out of the unit, we needed a computer and internet connection. I also don’t think it really was “filled with interesting topic-focused activity based learning” either. A better description would be “full of ideas for extension activities for learning.” While the games did teach more than was presented in the introductory paragraphs, the majority of activity-based learning came from research, the computer, and occasionally from some of the extra enrichment ideas presented. For the cost, I had expected a more comprehensive unit study with more engaging activities and information.
I think what was provided in Pearl Harbor is really well done for what it is- a supplement to pull out and do along side a unit study on a given topic. While it wasn’t ideal for my family, it would be great for a family already immersed in the 1890s through 1950s. I think it might also be better suited for children who are a little older than 10 and who enjoy researching and writing about a given topic. I might also suggest that given the need to print all games out in color on cardstock, it might be worth purchasing the physical box rather than the pdf. Color printing can get very expensive.
Be sure to check out what other schoolhouse crew members thought by clicking the banner below. While this product didn’t really work for my family, it may have worked for others differently and every crew members has their opinion.