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DIY Science Supplies for Homeschoolers

Teach Lab Science at Home with Everyday Materials

By

Dry Ice
Kathy Ceceri

Yes, you can buy all-in-one lab kits or individual experiments for your homeschooling studies. But you can also do middle and high school level science labs with little or no special equipment.

One great book to help get you started is The Joy of Chemistry: The Amazing Science of Familiar Things by chemistry professors Cathy Cobb and Monty L. Fetterolf. (Compare Prices) It gives directions for assembling your own chemistry set from everyday substances and disposable "lab equipment."

Another excellent place to find experiments you can easily do at home is About.com's Chemistry site, run by Anne Helmenstine, Ph.D.) Using The Joy of Chemistry, About.com Chemistry, and other science resources, my kids and I managed to create our own high school chemistry course. It worked so well for us that we continued on through physics and biology the same way.

To build your own at-home science lab, you only need a few standard household supplies, as the list below shows. Once you've got the basics, check out some of the simple science activities and more advanced experiments on this site and around the web.

What to Keep on Hand

The basic materials listed below lend themselves to many different kinds of science studies. Most are readily available in the supermarket, drugstore, or hardware department.

You can also scrounge electronic parts from old toys and appliances you have around the house, or from cheap keychain lights, mini-fans, radios, or solar lights you can get at the dollar store.

Safety Equipment

  • safety goggles
  • rubber gloves
  • lab coat or old oversized t-shirt
  • closed-toe shoes

Containers

  • clear plastic cups
  • clean empty soda bottles
  • plastic mayonnaise or peanut butter jars
  • coffee cans
  • oatmeal cartons
  • potato chip cans
  • ziptop bags
  • #6 clear plastic containers
  • small Pyrex dishes

Tools

  • plastic spoons
  • paper, plastic or foam plates and bowls
  • drinking straws (cocktail, soda, and wider)
  • toothpicks (flat and round)
  • eye dropper
  • plastic pipette

Measuring Tools

  • rulers
  • food scale
  • room thermometers
  • digital meat thermometer
  • measuring cups (plastic and Pyrex)
  • measuring spoons

Chemicals

  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • corn starch
  • salt
  • salt substitute
  • food coloring
  • lemon juice
  • pineapple juice
  • gelatin
  • red cabbage
  • soda
  • Mentos
  • Wintergreen Lifesavers
  • fizzing antacid tablets
  • laundry bluing
  • borax detergent
  • white glue
  • baby oil
  • dish soap
  • rubbing alcohol
  • flour
  • yeast
  • sugar
  • glow sticks

Materials

  • rubber balls
  • yoyos
  • glass marbles
  • Slinkys
  • drinking dipping bird toys
  • bubble soap
  • latex balloons
  • helium balloons

Electronics

  • LED bulbs
  • batteries (all kinds -- AA, AAA, 9V, 3V coin batteries)
  • solar panels (get them off of old garden lights)
  • laser pointer
  • black light bulb
  • small DC (battery-powered) motors
  • electrical wire
  • magnetic wire
  • nails (steel and zinc)
  • paper clips
  • razor blades
  • magnets
  • iron filings
  • electrical tape
  • assorted coins

Optical Equipment

  • magnifying glasses
  • digital still/video camera
  • microscope (digital and standard) (Compare Prices)
  • binoculars
  • telescope
  • polarized lenses
  • clear plastic tape
  • old CDs

Materials to Be Used Under Adult Supervision

  • small votive candles and matches
  • microwave oven
  • dry ice
  • chemical hand warmers
  • chemical cold packs
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