Monday, May 18, 2015

Shopping in Chicago: American Science and Surplus

We are not big shoppers (which is a good thing, as over a year into our "new" house, we have still not completely unpacked!), but I knew that during our trip to Chicago, there were exactly two stores that I wanted to visit.

The first is American Science and Surplus, a store that sells hard-core scientific equipment AND totally random surplus. I shop online from them every now and then, and I've gotten chemistry equipment, glass jars and test tubes and beakers and such, surplus restaurant crayons for when I was making crayon rocket pops for craft fairs, surplus science and craft and building kits for my secret present bin in the top of my bedroom closet (Santa often pulls from this bin, as does the Easter Bunny and sometimes the Tooth Fairy), and a hundred other just totally random things.

It's one of those stores where you can't go looking for exactly what you need, but if you go looking, you'll find tons of things that are exactly what you want.

The physical store location was just as fun and chaotic as I'd hoped, with lots of really cool finds on display and plenty of things for the kids to look at under Matt's supervision while I enjoyed myself shopping. I tried to contain myself--I didn't buy 10 of the specimen mounts as I still think that I should have, nor did I buy the gas mask like I TOTALLY should have, nor nearly as many beakers as I wanted--but here's what I came home with, for a little less than a hundred dollars:


  • microscope slide storage case--I've been researching how to create permanent slides. This is where I can store them!
  • specimen mounts--You use these to store and display fossils and other finds. These mounts are exactly the same as the ones that I buy from Carolina Biological Supply Company, only five bucks cheaper and sans shipping (although sales tax is really expensive!). I would have bought more than two, because I NEED more than two, but I still hold a previous vow to myself to figure out how to DIY these, so I held myself in check.
  • cello sheets--The kids have a lot of fun with these for craft and science projects. We need to make more color viewers, in particular.
  • owl pellet--just one, because the kids have both dissected owl pellets before. I'll keep it with my other homeschool supplies until something comes up that inspires its dissection. 
  • pipettes--Can't have too many of these! I buy a few whenever I see them cheaply. Most recently, the kids used them as part of their soda bottle Cartesian divers.
  • giant mercury thermometer--I'm hoping this will come in handy with hands-on math and science.
  • Methyl blue--Making our own slides!
  • measured syringes--I only bought a couple for experimentation, but hopefully they'll come in handy for math, science, and crafts.
  • magnets--these were pretty strong, and they've each got two holes in them, to make it easy to tie them to something or use them in a project. I bought two.
  • Erlenmeyer flask--You can use these with a flame, so they're very useful. I only bought one, to make sure that the quality is what I expect (it will fail if it explodes all over me while I'm holding it over a heat source), but if it is, I'll probably order more from them online.
  • shrink plastic--I LOVE shrinky dinks!
  • cat toys, random bottle, giant rubber band--This is stuff that the kids picked out. The giant rubber band, in particular, has been super fun.
  • dentistry tools--You also use these for fossil prep, so I was stoked to find them.
  • giant weather balloon--I have no idea. But one day its purpose will become clear, I know.
  • Revolutionary War battlefield map--I actually don't remember picking this out. Matt or one of the kids must have.
  • adding machine tape--This stuff is actually dead useful for homeschooling. Think timelines and number lines.
  • solar cell. Will is interested in robotics and machines, and learning how to support this is one of my summer goals.
  • build an engine kit--Same thing. We'll build an engine!
  • stethoscope--We definitely used to have one, but I think it disappeared in the move.
  • test tube brush--Finally, we can clean our test tubes!
I skipped all of the tempting science kits, because I'm trying to limit my random purchases these days to things that count as tools or supplies--like rock hammer over geology kit, that kind of thing. I got rid of tons of preschool homeschool stuff during the move, most of which hadn't been a great deal of use during preschool at home, and that made me realize that tools are much more versatile than kits or finished items, and will be more useful over the total number of years that I want to spend homeschooling with the kids.

However, if I lived near an American Science and Surplus... I'd have a huge problem. Our house would be collapsing under the weight of all of my surplus Soviet military gear and my random electronics components and my crazy-cheap beakers. 

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