This page offers information on finding the materials and supplies you’ll need to create Exploratorium Snacks, and ways to think about designing your own activities. It also includes a list of our favorite print resources including books, manuals, and journals. Be creative when you’re shopping, browsing through catalogs, or surfing the Web. You may find inspiration in the most unlikely places!
In your hunt for resources, we recommend you begin by looking all around you. The offerings in your local grocery store, pharmacy, toy store, thrift shop, home-improvement center, or stationery store might be of use in your classroom. Could something you saw in a restaurant work as a great demonstration? Would a super-shiny bowl from a kitchen-supply store make a good concave mirror? Could you make a model from marshmallows and toothpicks instead of buying an expensive kit? This fascinating endeavor can result in some creative ideas for teaching science. In fact, the Exploratorium Teacher Institute offers an annual "Shopping for Science" field trip for their Beginning Teacher Program. Best of all, you can do it anytime, anywhere.
Below you'll find other great resources for supplies and materials, listed alphabetically.
American Science and Surplus
Useful science stuff (lab equipment, small motors, etc.), hardware odds and ends, and a wide range of unusual items for creative use. The array of available items changes over time.
Nice selection of interesting science materials.
Lots of different kinds of magnets, including neodymium and cow magnets, at reasonable cost.
Edmund Scientific Company
A prime source for interesting science products, from moiré patterns and solar cells to liquid crystal and polarizing materials. A particularly good source for optics supplies.
A wide variety of interesting science materials.
Cow magnets–which you may be able to find at feed stores–work well for many science activities. Normally, these magnets are fed to cows so that any iron material they might ingest (nails, bits of wire, and so on) will remain in the animal’s stomach and not pass through the digestive tract.
In addition to being a chemical supply house, Flinn has an unmatched array of materials related to laboratory safety. It also offers a variety of activity ideas.
A source for strong magnets of all sizes, in addition to other products.
Large distributor of science supplies.
You can use cooking oil, corn syrup, or mineral oil for index of refraction investigations and demonstrations, sugar for making rock candy, antacids such as Alka-Seltzer for generating a gas, peanuts for calorimetry investigations, and bread for demonstrating density (before and after sitting on a loaf, for example).
Hardware and Home Improvement Stores
You can use pulleys and jacks for simple machines, flashlight bulbs, sockets, and knife switches for electricity activities, and mousetraps to power cars.
Outstanding source for technology, electronics, and science materials, from motors to hydraulic syringes to plastic propellers.
Master Magnetics/The Magnet Source
A good source for magnets of all kinds.
Electronics supplier with an extensive selection.
Office Supply Stores
You can use spring clips for mirror holders, colored stickers for afterimages, rubber bands for propulsion, paper clips in electric motor construction, and so much more!
At local party stores, you can find small novelties and toys that are suitable for science activities.
Source for a wide range of technology, electronics, and project materials, including mousetrap cars and balsawood bridges.
You can get plexi-mirror, clear and colored acrylic sheets (for static-electricity demonstrations or colored filters), mirrored Mylar, and plastic tubes at plastics stores. Most will cut plastics to size (for a price), and they may have a bargain scrap bin for pieces by the pound.
Large distributor of science supplies.
A source of efficient holographic diffraction gratings, along with many other products for teaching science.
Science Museum Stores
Check in your area for unique resources, including books, kits, and toys.
Steve Spangler Science
Offers a potpourri of science materials including science kits, toys, and videos.
A large distributor of plastics and plastics products. They have an online store as well as brick-and-mortar stores on the West Coast.
Stores such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and St. Vincent de Paul, along with local thrift stores, can sometimes provide useful items at bargain prices. For example, we found a working hair dryer for $1.00 (for Balancing Ball), a working turntable for $5.00 (for Spinning Blackboard), and a bowling ball for $5.00 (which we used as the pendulum in Resonant Pendulum). Use your imagination!
You can use foam dart guns to investigate projectile motion, wind-up toys for energy transformations, and toy cars of various types to explore velocity and acceleration.
U.S. Toy Co.
An online party store that carries pull-back cars, plastic and metal Slinkylike springs, magnifiers, and more. You can purchase many items by the dozen fairly inexpensively.