What is a Science Snack, anyway?
An Exploratorium Snack is a hands-on science activity. Science Snacks are tabletop exhibits or explorations of natural phenomena that teachers or students can make using common, inexpensive, readily available materials.
Science Snacks are divided into easy-to-follow sections that include instructions, advice, and helpful hints. Each one begins with a photo and/or video, a short introduction, and a list of materials. Other sections include assembly instructions, how to use the activity, and explain what’s going on, science-wise. Most Science Snacks can be built by one person; we indicate if a partner or adult help is needed, this is indicated. A section called "Going Further" offers interesting bits of additional scientific and historic information.
Why are they called Snacks rather than activities?
The Exploratorium is a science museum with hundreds of hands-on exhibits. Early in our history, other museums would ask for “recipes” to build and duplicate these exhibits, so we published a series of books called the Exploratorium Cookbooks. Teachers wanted to build classroom-sized, less expensive versions of these same exhibits, so we created Science Snacks as a way to bring our exhibits into the classroom. We published these in a book called The Exploratorium Science Snackbook. Many of the original Snacks we built were based on museum exhibits. We’ve since branched out to cover content that spans science curriculum for grades 6-12.
How long does it take to build a Science Snack?
It depends on the Snack. Some require no assembly at all. Some take a bit more time. Some might require you to obtain a variety of materials and tools. Almost all Snacks can be assembled in under an hour.
For what ages are Science Snacks appropriate?
Originally written for secondary science teachers, Snacks have been used by elementary school teachers, university professors, and kids at home. Snacks can be modified to allow students to investigate and explore interesting phenomena or they can be used to help communicate deeper scientific concepts.
Where do I get the supplies to build a Science Snack?
Snacks are designed to be made with easily obtainable materials. Most supplies can be found at supermarkets, drugstores, or hardware or electronics stores. Check out our Supplies page for a list of great resources for all manner of Snack ingredients.
But I can’t find CDs anymore. And what’s a film can?
These Snacks have been developed over three decades, and some materials that were once readily available may no longer be so. For those Snacks, we challenge you to get creative in your hunt for needed materials, or to find suitable replacement materials. Snacks are all about using what’s around you to help share a discovery, so try something out and see if it works!
Do these Snacks address my local, state, or national science standards?
Snacks are a great way to bring hands-on learning and exploration into an educational setting. They are meant to help further understanding of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Snacks can be incorporated into your lessons and curriculum in a variety of ways to meet your state or district science standards. We leave it up to you, the educator, to determine how to use and modify our Snacks to best suit your educational needs.
Find out more about how Snacks can address Next Generation Science Standards.
Are Snacks safe to build?
Exploratorium Snacks were designed with safety and success in mind. However, even the simplest activity or the most common materials and tools can be harmful when mishandled or misused. Use common sense whenever you're exploring or experimenting and always pay special attention to any notes on safety.
Do I need to follow the directions exactly, or can I experiment with different ways to do a Snack?
Each Snack on this site has been tested, poked, adjusted, and readjusted to make sure that they are reliable and easy to assemble. You may choose to follow the original directions—or you may choose to experiment. Go ahead, change something and see what happens!
Even though individual Snacks are usually developed with one or two science concepts in mind, Snacks themselves can be used as lessons in design and engineering.
I can't get this Snack to work. Can you help me?
Tell us about your struggles and successes by commenting on the Teacher Institute Facebook page. We or a fellow teacher will try to help.
Who developed these Snacks?
The Snacks on this site were created over decades of collaboration between the staff of the Exploratorium Teacher Institute and our teacher participants. Find out more about our current staff.
Are these Snacks available in print?
Our Snacks have been published in a variety of books and magazines over the years. You can find over 100 of them in The Exploratorium Science Snackbook, which is available for purchase.
What are the copyright and publishing permissions for using a Snack?
Exploratorium Snacks are protected by copyright and trademark laws and are the property of the Exploratorium. However, use is granted for informational, educational, and other noncommercial purposes and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 4.0. For more information, please refer to our general use policy.
How do I credit the Exploratorium for this work?
If you are using Exploratorium Snacks and associated content in an educational, non-commercial setting, please give credit to the Exploratorium Teacher Institute and include both the Creative Commons license and a live URL to the source (either the museum's main website or the original content page). If using our content for commercial purposes, please contact the Exploratorium at firstname.lastname@example.org.