Whether it is a natural disaster or a pandemic virus, there are times when we get stuck at home for one reason or another. Some experts suggest relaxing screen time rules for youngsters, but we all know that the glowing rectangle isn't the solution for everyone, nor is it a permanent fix. For products that not only educate, but inspire, B&H Photo has what you need to engage your family, keep yourself entertained, expand horizons, and help everyone learn and grow.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education is the focus of many schools these days. While B&H has a special product category for STEM let's take a look at some more "mainstream" items that B&H sells that fit the bill for STEM learning at home and many other uses.
Binoculars are versatile optical tools that almost anyone can enjoy. They are the most accessible optical option—not only in terms of cost, but also in terms of ease of use—and, in general, the most portable.
Many people immediately associate binoculars with birdwatching, but binoculars can be used for astronomy, boating, watching sports, and anything where you wish to get a closer look at something distant. You can even use them to get a closer look at something a few feet away—there is a reason why there is a popular series of Nikon binoculars called "Monarch" since they make fantastic tools for viewing insects several feet away.
B&H has one of the world's most comprehensive selection of binoculars—if not the world's most extensive, with well over 1,200 options to choose from. While it is quick and easy to dive into the world of binoculars with an inexpensive pair, if you think that you'll want to enjoy your glasses for years to come (and pass them down to your offspring), it may make sense to make a small investment in a quality pair. To help you reach a purchasing decision, check out Chris Witt's comprehensive Binocular Buying Guide, or contact a B&H sales professional for advice based on what you want to use them for.
For those without binocular vision, or as an option to save weight and size, but still gain a closer view, B&H also sells a wide variety of monoculars.
The next most accessible and versatile optical device for you or the family is the spotting scope. Basically, a simple and more rugged telescope with a prism to erect the image (telescopes show everything upside down unless they have a prism), the spotting scope will provide more magnification than standard binoculars and are designed primarily for terrestrial observations and popularly used in birding and hunting circles.
I use my spotting scope for astronomy and consider it one of the best ways to get the family into viewing the night sky. Not everyone agrees with that (see the comments below that article), but feel free to check the article to see an expanded explanation of my position.
The spotting scope, possibly more than any other optic, lends itself to the fun of "digiscoping"—using your camera, or smartphone camera, to take a photo through the scope to capture and share what you are viewing.
And, like binoculars, you get into a spotting scope without breaking the bank but, as I mentioned above, if you think you'll be getting into using your scope, a small investment might get you a scope that will not only last you a lifetime, but give superlative viewing performance.
If your eyes are on the heavens above, a telescope is a great tool for exploring the night sky. If you skimmed over the previous section on spotting scopes, I would kindly redirect you there because I feel that a spotting scope is one of the best ways to get into basic astronomy along with binoculars. But, for serious astronomy, the telescope is your weapon of choice.
Telescopes can be inexpensive and basic (and fun), or large, complex, and hugely expensive. Luckily for you, my B&H colleague, Christopher Witt, has written a buying guide titled Everything You Need to Know Before Buying a Telescope.
Get a good telescope and get ready to enjoy views of the moon, planets, and deep sky objects like nebulae and star clusters.
You likely used a microscope in grade school, high school, or maybe even in college. You likely thought it was a pretty cool device and what you viewed looked amazingly interesting up close—getting a view that the human eye cannot achieve unaided.
Despite having experience with a microscope, you might not have ever considered owning your own. But, yes, you may certainly own your own and start microscopic exploration of objects around you, or of pre-made slides that contain everything from bugs to spores to animal embryos to plant specimens. Or, get blank slides and create your own.
Not only does a microscope make a great family STEM educational tool, you can use it all day indoors and not have to wait for clear skies.
And, yes, Chris Witt wrote a buying guide for microscopes, too.
A relatively less popular segment of astronomy is solar viewing, but studying our closest star can be just as fascinating as studying ones many light years away. Also, because it is relatively close, having the proper solar viewing equipment can allow you to see details of the sun that most people will never see. Check out this article for some teasers on what types of images might be possible.
Another cool part about being a solar astronomer is that all you need is a clear daytime sky to do solar observing—no late nights out in the field trying to stay warm and keep condensation off of your scope lens!
B&H sells dedicated solar binoculars, telescopes, solar viewing glasses, and filters for standard telescopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes. We have a dedicated solar scope buying guide here. A word of caution: without the right equipment, solar viewing can damage your eyesight or cause permanent blindness. Please be sure you are using dedicated solar viewing gear and read this article on solar viewing safety.
B&H has a selection of STEM-learning designed robots at your service. Brands like Makeblock and UBTECH Robotics offer robots that you can build and program yourself, including ones that fly, look like a unicorn, or wheel around your home.
Speaking of flying, there is nothing more STEM than the miracle of flight and B&H takes you flying with a huge selection of drones. While you won't be assembling these flying machines from the ground up, or doing robotic programming for them, there is definitely an educational side to operating an unmanned aerial vehicle.
Of course, there are many drones on the market at all sorts of prices, but check out this article on adventure drones that might inspire you to get airborne!
Other Fun STEM Stuff
Much of what we sell at B&H can be a part of STEM learning or exploring your surroundings. Diving into the B&H warehouse, here is a short list of other STEM gear that might be great for you or your family:
Build a solar light.
Get close to things with a magnifying glass.
Figure out how far away things are with a laser rangefinder.
How fast is your fast ball? How fast can your kids pedal their bikes? A radar speed gun will tell you.
Have a discussion about Earth's magnetic field and keep yourself from getting lost on a hike with a magnetic compass.
Before "STEM" was the mainstream acronym, it was "STEAM" and the "A" stood for "Art." [Apparently, it did not get enough STEAM to stay popular… but that digression leads way off the path of this article.]
Packed to the gills with not only cameras and lenses, but many other products associated with the production of art of different genres, feel free to lose yourself on our website and find ways to create your own art, or collaborate with your family to make beautiful images, videos, sounds, pictures, and more.