Where might you find the following collection of items?
single-edged razor blades
sieve or flour sifter
ordinary hammer or geologist’s hammer
tacks and nails
pencils and pens
glue or transparent cement
water-color paints and brushes
And of course the answer is, in the back yard laboratory of a budding scientist.
Chapter 3 of Science in Your Own Back Yard is “Suggestions for a Back Yard Laboratory” and it is a hoot. It begins by acknowledging that you don’t need a laboratory to explore and experiment, but that it is convenient to have “a regular place to work.” The first order of business, then, is to find a good location. Some suggested locations are the back of the porch, on the patio, “beside a shed, tool house, barn or garage, where you can quickly move inside in case of bad weather.” Obviously, you should consult your parents, and if you are working with other kids in the ‘hood, “get together first and discuss the best place for your work area.”
The chapter then goes on to discuss how to furnish your laboratory. You’ll need surface area– for example, “a discarded ironing board, placed on two orange crates”– and some storage space. “Three orange crates, stacked up and nailed together, make a strong storage space with six separate compartments.”
Once you’ve set up your “smooth, table-like area” (check with your neighborhood market for crates you can use for seating), and gotten some shelf space, you need to equip your laboratory.
“The one piece of scientific equipment you must have is a hand-lens magnifying glass.” Buy the best one you can afford. A good one will cost $2.00 to $3.00.
And then you need scissors and razor blades and knives and such. See above.
You are going to “be collecting many different kinds of soil, rocks, seeds, flowers, plants, insects, etc.” and you’ll need containers for these. “Most of these containers can be found among the things your family would normally throw away. Get the habit of collecting and saving all the clean containers you can find at home.”
If razor blades made you laugh (or cringe), you should see the list of containers “you will want to save.” Tetanus. Salmonella. Lead. Escherichia coli. My favorite is “Tin cans, clean, and with tops smoothly removed” because back in 1958 “tin” meant tin– Sn.
Remember, though, “The most important and most valuable ‘scientific tools’ you use in exploring cannot be collected or bought. They are the ability to see, hear smell taste. and feel, and a well-developed curiosity about the many wonderful things around you.”