Educational Insights Aquascope™ Review
During the spring and summer, my Nerds practically live in the water. Whether they’re wading through a creek, diving into the pool at swim practice, or splashing around in the surf, they love taking a plunge. In addition to cooling off, one of the big draws for my curious girls is being able to explore what life is like below the surface. They love touring aquariums and other aquatic adventures.
Educational Insights, makers of the GeoSafari line among other STEM toys, knows that kids like mine love diving into nature. That’s why the toymaker created the Nancy B’s Science Club® AquaScopeTM and Underwater Wonders Activity Journal. While the weather gets cooler in many parts of the U.S. and beach trips may be off the agenda for awhile, fall is a great time to get active Nerds outside, hiking and exploring their local waterways.
The AquaScope is a kid-friendly, scientific instrument that will allow your budding marine biologist to safely observe life in rivers, creeks, and streams, up-close, without having to put on their goggles and stick their noses all the way in. “And you won’t have to hold your breath either!” says my 8-year-old Lightning McQueen, who helped me test out the AquaScope sent to us free by the the manufacturer in exchange for our honest and objective review.
Aquascope Main Features:
- Viewer with 5X magnification
- Built-in LED flashlight to see through even the murkiest water
- Thermometer strip and ruler
- 18-page activity journal
- Lightweight, collapsible body with water resistant housing
- Designed for ages 8-12
- Price $39.99 from Educational Insights’ site (or about $30 on Amazon.com)
What You & Your Nerds Will Love about Aquascope:
- Easy to use. There’s no assembly required (except for installation of 3 AAA batteries for the LEDs), so even younger kids will be able to use the scope right out of the box (one of our testers was just 6 years old and recently graduated from kindergarten). Although some younger kids may need help understanding a few things presented in the activity manual. Your Nerds may need help from mom or dad with the somewhat tricky battery install.
- Activity Booklet. The scope comes with a thoughtful and easy-to-follow guide. The booklet has a nice focus on STEM/STEAM concepts, such as data collection, wildlife observation, as well as art/drawing and creative writing. It’s probably not practical for your Nerds to take the booklet with them for use in the field, but it is a nice way to reinforce what they’ve learned once they get back home.
What You Won’t:
- The “water resistant” housing. This may have been unique to our device or environment/experience, but after about an hour of use by our kid scientists wading through the shallows of our local creek, the scope’s big lens became cloudy with condensation across almost half its field of view. This hindered its effectiveness in further observing the underwater environment.
We figured there could’ve been three sources of the problem:
- Cold creek water mixing with warmer, humid air outside might have created the condensation inside the scope, which is plausible;
- Water dripping down from the point where the segmented device telescopes in-out. However, the instrument was never submerged more than a few inches from the viewing end, so we ruled this out; or
- There may have been a faulty seal (or crack) at the “business end” of the housing, which is supposed to be water-resistant. The scope is made of plastic, so a crack or bad seal is also plausible. We inspected the housing and found no visible cracks.
- We didn’t expect the telescoping segments to keep out 100 percent of possible moisture inherent in taking the AquaScope into the water, but we thought it was reasonable to expect the scope to withstand normal use – especially its first use – in an environment for which its use was intended.
- The price tag. While the AquaScope certainly lived up to its STEM claims of enabling kids to explore underwater life up-close, our dads-and-daughters review team agreed that $30-$40 retail ask might be a bit steep for the plastic viewer.
What Our Nerds Say about Aquascope:
“I like that it extends so you don’t have to crouch down too much to see everything…”
“It makes things clearer so you can actually see creatures in the water. Even though you might see something swimming around from far away and with just your eyes, the AquaScope makes it more clear.”
“It’s pretty easy to use and you don’t have to put it together – but you do need to make sure you have the right batteries.”
“I really liked the lights – you can use it without the lights but it wouldn’t look as interesting and you wouldn’t be able to see as well. You can use it to explore at night or even use it as a flashlight if you want to go out after dark.”
“I didn’t like that you have to remember where the water line is so it doesn’t get water in it and fog up the lens.”
“I like how it comes with an activity journal so it’s not just the AquaScope – you can write down what you see and you won’t forget about it.”
“I wish you could have something like an attachment that would let you take pictures of creatures with your phone – kind of like a selfie stick.”
Aquascope: The Bottom Line:
The AquaScope is an easy-to-use instrument that allows young biology buffs to get a close-up glimpse of aquatic life lurking beyond normal reach in the shallower waters near shorelines and in creeks and streams. It’s a nice product, albeit a bit pricey.
For younger Nerds and nerds who don’t mind their scopes shaped like submarines, you might also consider Educational Insights’ GeoSafari Jr. SubScope. For a little less money, your Nerds can get a similar viewing experience (it even includes the LED lighting).
Unfortunately, our Nerds didn’t see many signs of wildlife on the two occasions we field-tested our AquaScope. But whether or not your curious kids succeed in finding creatures to observe, just having access to an AquaScope (or SubScope) is great incentive for them to get outside, commune with nature, ask questions, and explore their world!