This guide is a collection of resources recommended by the teachers who created the original Snackbook. It includes sources for some hard-to-get items, for books and print materials considered exceptionally valuable, for unique suppliers, and for items that might not conventionally be considered to be science resources. It does not pretend to be all-encompassing, exhaustive, or universal, but we hope it will be useful.


We recommend that you browse through toy stores, office supply or stationery stores, and hardware or home repair stores, and think about how the items on display might be used in a science class. This can be an amazingly creative endeavor and can generate long-term rewards. A few examples of uses of common items are given below.

Toy Stores

You can use dart guns for experiments in projectile motion, wind-up toys for energy transformations, and toy cars of various types for velocity and acceleration experiments.

Hardware and Home Repair Stores

You can use pulleys and jacks for simple machines, flashlight bulbs, sockets and knife switches for electricity activities, Mini-Mag flashlights and penlight flashlights for light sources, springs for Hooke's Law, and mousetraps to power cars.

Stationery and Office Supply Stores

You can use spring clips for mirror holders, colored stickers for retinal afterimages, pencils to obtain diffraction patterns, rubber bands for propulsion, paper clips for use in electric motor construction, and banker's box-type cardboard boxes for storage.

Grocery Stores

You can use Wesson oil, Karo syrup, or mineral oil for index of refraction experiments and demonstrations, sugar for making rock candy, Alka-Seltzer for generating a gas, peanuts for calorimetry experiments, and bread for demonstrating density (before and after sitting on a loaf).

Plastics Stores

You can get Plexi-mirror, clear and colored acrylic sheet (for static electricity demonstrations or colored filters), aluminized mylar, and plastic tubes. Most plastics stores will cut plastic to size (for a price), and they may have a bargain scrap bin for pieces by the pound.

Thrift Shops

Salvation Army, Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul, or local hospital and hospice thrift shops can sometimes provide useful items at bargain prices. For example, we found a working hair-dryer for $1.00 (see Balancing Ball), a working turntable for $5.00 (see Spinning Blackboard), and a bowling ball for $5.00 (see Resonant Pendulum). Use your imagination!

Science Museum Stores

The Exploratorium Store
1601 Lyon St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
Catalog available; mail order phone 1-800-359-9899
Check science museum stores in your own area.

Science and Nature Stores

The Nature Company
Mail Order Division
P.O. Box 188
Florence, KY 41022

This company and others like it are often expensive, but the good news is that they often have some interesting items, and may be found in shopping malls.

Scientific Supply Companies

Central Scientific, Sargent-Welch, Carolina, Frey, Fisher, PASCO, etc.
These are the most traditional sources for the most traditional supplies, from test tubes to preserved frogs. If you do not have access to these extensive catalogs, visit your local high school science department, where they usually exist in abundance. If you have never thumbed through one of these volumes, it is worth your while to do so. You will get an overview of what things are available and what they are used for, and you may get ideas for how to improvise more economical substitutes or more creative variations.


This section gives sources of materials that are unique, useful, or hard to find. The listings are categorized by supply or material, rather than by store type, as in the previous section.


Local Feed Stores
Cow magnets are strong, cylindrical magnets with rounded ends. These magnets are fed to cows so that any iron material eaten by the cow (nails, bits of wire, and so on) will remain in the stomach and not pass through the digestive tract. These are excellent magnets for many science activities; you can probably find them at a local animal feed store.

Dowling Miner Magnetics Corp.
P.O. Box 1829
Sonoma, CA 95476 707-935-0352, or 1-800-MAGNET 1

Source of small (0.5" diameter x 0.25" thick) extremely strong neodymium magnets at reasonable cost ($3.00 at time of writing). Cow magnets available for $6.95.

Liquid Crystal Postcards and Postcard Thermometers

Exploratorium Store (see prior listing)


Flinn Scientific
131 Flinn St.
P.O. Box 219
Batavia, IL 60510-0219

In addition to being a chemical supply house, Flinn has an unmatched array of materials related to laboratory safety. Their catalog is a valuable teaching resource, and they also offer publicatgions with ideas for chemistry lab experiments and activities. Don't fail to visit their exhibit if you ever go to an National Science Teachers' Association convention.


Radio Shack

Electrical and electronic supplies: alligator clips, resistors, buzzers, meters, wire, etc. Catalog available, but browse a store if you can.

Local Alarm Companies

A local alarm company may be a source for free batteries. These companies have periodic schedules for battery replacement, and the old batteries are often still usable.

Mouser Electronics

Mail-order electronics supplier with an extensive selection. Catalog routinely sent to schools.


Edmund Scientific Co.
101 E. Gloucester Pike
Barrington, NJ 08007
609-573-6250 or 609-547-3488

If you are a science teacher, you need to get an Edmund Scientific catalog. It is a prime source for offbeat science materials, from moiré patterns to polarizing material. They are a particularly good source for optics supplies.

JERRYCO American Science Center
601 Linden Place
Evanston, IL 60202

Industrial and military surplus useful to teachers, students, tinkerers, or the curious.

Diffraction Gratings
Learning Technologies, Inc.
59 Walden St.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Holographic diffraction grating: bright, inexpensive, and gives fantastic separation.

Polarizing Material
Polaroid Corporation
1 Upland Rd.
Norwood, MA 02602
Polaroid material.


The resources in this section are primarily print materials and include magazines, textbooks, lab manuals, demonstration collections, and resource books.

Science Teaching Journals

If you haven't seen these, make it a priority to do so. They are invaluable as sources of concrete ideas for teaching.

The Physics Teacher
American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT)
5112 Berwyn Rd.
College Park, MD 20740
Catalog of publications also available.

The Science Teacher
Science and Children
Annual NSTA Guide to Science Education Suppliers
National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)
1742 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20009
Catalog of publications also available.

American Chemical Society (ACS)
Dept L-0011
Columbus, OH 43268-0011

Science Books and Films
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
1333 H St., NW
Washington, DC 20005

Exploraing Magazine

The Exploratorium
3601 Lyon St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
This magazine is automatically sent as part of a membership; otherwise, the subscription cost is $15 per year. Each issue deals with a single topic. Some examples are Amusement Parks, Electricity, Illusions, Dirt, and Ice. While this magazine is not specifically focused on the classroom, the articles contain lots of unusual and useful information, and each issue has at least one "To Do & Notice" activity related to the topic of that issue.


There are many textbooks, and each has its advocates and its critics. The books listed below emphasize a readable, qualitative approach to the concepts of physics, rather than a mathematical approach.

Conceptual Physics: A High School Physics Program
Paul Hewitt
Addison Wesley, 1989
Teachers Guide, Lab Manual, and other related teaching materials available.

Conceptual Physics (Sixth Edition)
Paul Hewitt
Scott, Foresman, 1987
College version.

Demonstration Collections, Lab Manuals, and Related Resources
A Demonstration Handbook for Physics
G.D. Frier and F.J. Anderson
AAPT, 1981
Publications Dept.
5112 Berwyn Rd.
College Park, MD 20740 Brief descriptions and diagrams for zillions of physics demonstrations.

A Potpourri of Physics Teaching Ideas: Selected Reprints from THE PHYSICS TEACHER
AAPT, April 1963-December 1986
Publications Dept.
5112 Berwyn Rd.
College Park, MD, 20740

Boston Children's Museum Activity Books
Activity books directed toward younger children, but with ideas that could be used by any age. There are several titles in this series, not all from the same authors and publishers. A few illustrative titles: Wheels at Work, Messing Around With Water Pumps and Siphons, Science Sensations.

Clouds in a Glass of Beer
Craig Bohren
Wiley, 1987
What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks
Craig Bohren
Wiley, 1991
Discussion and activities concerning atmospheric physics.

The Diagram Group
St. Martin's Press, 1980
Unique book of approximately 100 comparison charts for a wide range of topics, from sizes of bridges to frequencies of sound. An immensely useful teaching tool.

Gee Wiz!
Linda Allison and David Katz
Little, Brown, 1983
One of the Brown Paper School Book series. Creative, science-oriented activities for younger students, but adaptable to any age.

Lawrence Hall of Science
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720
A series of activity-based publications covering everything from bubbles to fingerprinting.

Getting Started in Electronics
Forest M. Mims III
Radio Shack, 1983
A good introduction to basic electronics. Includes theory and practical applications, and lots of stuff to build with relatively inexpensive parts.

Graph Paper from Your Copier
John Craver
HP Books, 1980
More than 100 graph grids of various calibrations that can be used in a copier.

Invitations to Scientific Inquiry
Tik L. Liem
Science Inquiry Enterprises,1981
505 Madison Ave., No. 12
El Cajon, CA, 92020
An outstanding collection of simple demonstrations and activities; a high-priority aquisition. Don't leave a methods course without it!

Ontario Science Center Activity Books
Addison Wesley
A series of activity books directed toward younger children, but adaptable over a range of ages. Titles include Sportworks; Foodworks; and Scienceworks.

Safe and Simple Electrical Experiments
Rudolf Graf
Dover, 1964
A practical book of activities covering electricity and magnetism.

Seeing the Light
David Falk, Dieter Brill, and David Stork
John Wiley, 1986
A unique and outstanding text covering virtually all aspects of light, vision, and color. Though essentially a college text, it is largely qualitative, rather than mathematical. It also has many application activities which are quite doable by students. An invaluable resource for any science teacher covering a significant amount of light.

String and Sticky Tape Experiments
Ronald Edge
AAPT, 1981
Publications Dept.
5112 Berwyn Rd.
College Park, MD 20740
Physics experiments with with simple materials.

The Flying Circus of Physics with Answers
Jearl Walker
John Wiley, 1977
An extensive, fascinating collection of problems and questions about the real world. Answers and references are given in separate sections at the end of the book.

The Hole Thing
Jim Shull
Morgan & Morgan, 1974
A manual of pinhole photography.

The Way Things Work
David Macaulay
Houghton Mifflin, 1988
Profusely illustrated descriptions of the way a lot of things work.

Thinking Physics (Second Edition)
Lewis Carroll Epstein
Insight Press, 1986
Illustrated multiple-choice conceptual physics problems related to the real world-with solutions.

Activity Cards
TOPS Learning Systems
10970 Mulino Rd.
Canby, OR 97013
Activity cards for physical science projects using everyday materials (rubber bands, paper clips, etc.). An extremely valuable resource for teaching low-budget, hands-on science with simple materials and without elaborate facilities. The activities cover an amazingly wide range of content.

Turning the World Inside Out
Robert Ehrlich
Princeton University Press, 1990
A new collection of demonstrations and activities.


©1997 The Exploratorium 3601 Lyon Street San Francisco, CA 94123