About Check Out Science


Check Out Science makes doing science with your family easy, no scientific expertise necessary. You and your budding scientist read a nonfiction book from our Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading curriculum, then follow the instructions on the included activity card. As you do the activity, your scientist can record thoughts, questions, and results in the Check Out Science notebook that is yours to keep. Most of the activities allow you to record your results in the activities below. Check our list of partner libraries to find out where Check Out Science kits available in your area.

Check Out Science is a partnership between the Lawrence Hall of Science and the Oakland and Berkeley Public Libraries and was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.



Partner Libraries

The Check Out Science Kits were developed in collaboration with the Oakland Public Library and the Berkeley Public Library.

Check Out Science Kits are now available at all of these libraries:

  • Oakland Public Library – Main Branch
  • Berkeley Public Library – Main Branch
  • Berkeley Public Library – North Branch
  • Berkeley Public Library – West Branch

Are you interested in getting Check Out Science Kits in your local library?

Interested in Bringing Check Out Science
to your local library?

For a limited time, the Lawrence Hall of Science has grant funds available to distribute kits and a one-year supply of the associated consumables to libraries at no cost. Just e-mail CheckOutScience@berkeley.edu with a contact name and phone number, and your library’s mailing address. A Lawrence Hall of Science staff member will contact you to answer your questions. There are 8 kit titles we are currently distributing. We will provide up to 5 copies of each kit title to every interested circulating branch until we run out.




What items need to be replaced every time they are checked out? How much time is invested on replacing?
Each kit consists of a book, two activity cards, a science journal, and an LHS pass. The pass and the science journal need to be replaced when the kits come back. It physically takes a minute to restock the kit, depending on how your system is set up.

What happens if one item from the kit goes missing? Are they easy to replace? Is there a replacement policy?
We will provide a box of back up copies of activities cards, in addition to the restock items. If books go missing or if replacement items are running low, we can be contacted at checkoutscience@berkeley.edu with request for replacement items.

Is there a replacement cost? If the parts or the entire kit gets lost/damaged, is there a cost/pay for each kit to acquire it?
For the first year, we will replace kits and all pieces at no charge. Beyond that first year, there is a $8 per kit replacement fee if we reproduce the kit for you and ship it. We can also make the electronic versions of the kit cards available for libraries to print & laminate themselves if they prefer to handle replacement that way. The books can also be ordered directly from our publisher.

How durably are the materials packaged?
The kit uses a standard plastic hanging bag, the kind frequently used in libraries for books accompanied by a CD. The materials themselves are the book, plastic laminated cards, and the consumable journal with most kits. One kit does also contain a plastic magnifying glass. These kits are currently being tested with our partner libraries.

Are they very high maintenance and time intensive to keep up?
No, the partner libraries find them to fairly easy to maintain. We’ve had one request for replace of missing pieces in the last two years.

Will you need to check the contents of the kits when returned, to make sure all the parts are there? Many libraries no longer have staff to do this kind of inspection of returned materials.
This is the drawback to these kits; however it is just the cards and the book in 90% of all the kits, and the restock pieces of the Lawrence Hall of Science pass and the journal. There is not a long list of equipment that needs to be checked off.

Is it possible to provide one kit as a sample?

Some libraries have “check out”, using RFID. All their materials are tagged and can be checked out on a self-check system. Can that be done with these kits? If the kits are checked out with a barcode, is this a barcode for the whole kit, or item by item?
This depends on your system and what you feel comfortable with. See below for the solution the Berkeley Public Library uses.

If the kits are checked out with a barcode, is this a barcode for the whole kit, or item by item?
See answer above. Again, it depends on your own system and how you decide what works best for you.

How do libraries handle the consumables in the kits (passes to LHS, notebooks they write in, e.g.) Will LHS send supplies of extras, so that the Circulation Dept. can check and replace the consumables?
The libraries restock the consumables as they prepare to re-shelve. The Lawrence Hall of Science sends a year supply at a time so that circulation departments can restock.

What is it needed to order kits? How many can be ordered, is there a limit?
All we will need is a mailing address and a contact person we can follow up with about kit circulation and restocking. We’ll limit to 5 copies of each kit for each branch library in a system willing to circulate. Requests for kits will be first come first served until the funds run out.

What other libraries in California have already been circulating these kits and what kind of circulation are these kits getting?
Berkeley Main Library-90 kits
Berkeley West and North-15 kits each
Oakland Main Library-90 kits
Children’s Hospital
From November of 2009 to March of 2010 there have been 223 check outs.

What are the subjects of these kits?
Oil Spill, Solving Dissolving, Sticky Situations, Bird Beak Smorgasboard, Sky Notebook, Magnets, Modeling a Stream, Cameras, Eyes and Glasses, The Black Tide, Mystery Mouths.

What is the age range of the current kits and what will be for the new kits?
The books included in the kit are leveled at 2-3rd grade for the majority of the kits. The kit activities are appropriate for families to do together from as young as four to 4th or 5th grade.

Do you have an idea what topics will be covered in the upcoming kits?
There is currently no answer for that question.


Download the Check Out Science Flyer for your festivals.

How can we introduce the kits to our patrons?
The Lawrence Hall of Science can stage a Check Out Science Festival kick off event at your location at the rate of $500. We bring 4-10 hands on-activity stations to your library depending on available space and do a-1 hour kick off event where families rotate between activities at their own pace. The activities are very similar to those in the books in that each station has a card with simple directions that the parent and child can follow together. Once a family has participated in the festival, they usually feel like doing similar activities using everyday items and the kits is fairly easy for them to do. Our partner libraries have included the event as one in the series of events they do to kick off their summer reading program. To book a festival, contact us at checkoutscience@berkeley.edu or call our Registration Office at 510-642-5132. A discount can be negotiated for library systems launching kits at multiple branches.

Can a flyer/description of the festival/kick off event be provided by The Lawrence Hall of Science?

How many children typically turn out for an event of this type?
That depends on how well the event gets promoted and it also depends on the space that you have available for the festival.

How long does the usual kick-off event run?
The festival will consist of a 1 hour kick off event, where families rotate between activities at their own pace.

If a library chooses to have the event outside, would this be a problem?
No, you just have to let us know in advance.

Can libraries that have many branches get a special/reduced price or deal for the launching festival? Is there a mini-festival option?
The Berkeley Public Library did do a mini-festival last year at two of its smaller branches. Instead of the multiple stations that were at our Central Library, I believe the branches only had space for 3-4 stations—the festivals there were still well-attended (60 attendees at one branch and 40 attendees at the other).

Can a library start circulating the kits before the festival or can a library circulate without having a festival?

What will be the theme for the festival/kick off event this year?
We used the Matter Festival as the festival for new libraries. We may need to change that for the libraries where we are partners and we were there last summer as well.

Can we start circulating the kits and then have the festival later, when we do the Summer Reading passes?

Yes, but the value of the festival is to launch the kits, so we advise you to use this opportunity as a kick off event.