Paul Doherty, co-director of the Snackbook project, is the Acting
Director of the Exploratorium's Center for Teaching and Learning. He has been working with high school and middle school teachers at the
Exploratorium for six years. Before coming to the Exploratorium, Paul was a physics professor at Oakland University in Michigan, where he
learned the importance of using hands-on science in high school classrooms from the Detroit Metropolitan Area Physics Teachers. He is now
gathering teachers to start work on Son of Snackbook.
The teachers in both programs often asked, "How can I bring these exhibits home to my classroom?" That was a challenge the Exploratorium couldn't ignore. We already had three Cookbooks, which were written to help other museums create duplicates of Exploratorium exhibits. But these instructions were complex and demanding, and relied on materials and skills well beyond those available to the average teacher. The Teacher Institute helped a group of teachers to write the book they wantedï¿½a book telling how to build simple, inexpensive, classroom-sized versions of Exploratorium exhibits. For three years, nearly one hundred teachers and Exploratorium staff members created and tested recipes for classroom science exhibits. With assistance from the Exploratorium's own science, writing, and graphics staff, these recipes were turned into the Exploratorium Science Snackbookï¿½or the Snackbook, for short. The Snackbook contains 107 recipes for "Snack-sized" versions of Exploratorium exhibits.
Each Snack was developed by one or more teachers trying to create a classroom-sized version of a full-sized Exploratorium exhibit. Often, a teacher's first attempt to duplicate an Exploratorium exhibit would fail, but everyone on the Snackbook team worked together to solve problems, come up with new ideas, and find creative ways to bring these experiments into the classroom. Time after time, the teachers experienced the joy of discovering new ways to do science. Sometimes their innovations even improved on the original museum exhibit. The rubber-glove-in-the-bottle version of the "Fog Chamber" Snack, for instance (see page 7), allows students to feel the pressure changes that create the fog in the jar. The full-sized Exploratorium version does not. The excitement of the Snackbook brainstorming sessions was contagious. Teachers told us that they felt a rejuvenated interest in teaching science.
Since the teachers insisted that correct scientific explanations accompany the hands-on activities, each Snack explains the science behind the phenomenon being demonstrated. A section called "Etc." contains interesting bits of additional historical and scientific information. You can see a sample Snack and all its parts on the inside front cover of this publication. Seven other Snacks are provided for you throughout the booklet.
We also discovered that a wider range of teachers were using the Snackbook than we had originally expected. Though the Snackbook was written primarily for high school teachers, we began to hear of successful applications in elementary schools, middle schools, and colleges and universities. We also heard from local science teachers who had special education classes or were working with students learning English as a second language. While these students had great trouble learning science from their textbooks, many excelled at building Snacks and investigating science. We found that the Snackbook was particularly useful in school districts where science department funding was tiny. With its emphasis on inexpensive or scrounged parts, the Snackbook gave teachers in less well-funded districts a way to do hands-on science activities on a tight budget. Teachers who had never been to the Exploratorium asked us how to weave the hands-on activities described in the Snackbook into their classrooms. The need for a guide like this one became obvious. There are many ways to incorporate interactive science activities into your classroom. In the articles that follow, we will show you how several of our local teachers use the Snackbook to help their students create science exhibits of their own. We hope that this magazine will give you a few new ideas.