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Published in Print: December 1, 2006, as Recycled Materials


Recycled Materials

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Former teacher Chris Moore is no dumpster diver, but he has picked through what others might consider trash to uncover the objets d’art available on his one-man Internet business, Droppin’ Science (

The 1960s filmstrips and other retro educational tools Moore sells were collecting dust until he rescued them from storage and rubbish bins at Bedichek Middle School in Austin, Texas, where he taught science for 13 years.

The 37-year-old is too young to have been weaned on the materials for sale on his site. But ever since college, when he bunked with two art majors, Moore has been a self-proclaimed “aesthetic guy” with an eye for quality. So whenever BMS offered employees a chance to sift through obsolete materials, he’d wade in, thinking he might someday be able to repackage and sell the stuff.

Since August, he’s been doing just that, though it’s too early to tell how well the business will fare. Droppin’ Science offers 13 downloadable versions of the filmstrips priced at $2 each, complete with voiceover narration and beep cues from the days when their frames had to be advanced by hand. Bearing such titles as LSD: Trip or Trap?, Stereotypes, and Glue Sniffing: Big Trouble in a Small Tube, they are laughably earnest attempts to keep post-Eisenhower adolescents out of trouble. “Some of the suggestions they make in the [You and The Other Generation] filmstrip, about how to get along with somebody older than you—I could see kids in my own classroom just snickering at that kind of thing,” Moore says.

A vintage classroom poster on beetles.
A vintage classroom poster on beetles.

He also scrounged a pile of 1930s botany and zoology posters from a junk heap outside a classroom. They were in decent shape and bore no artist or company names, so after a fruitless search for their origins, and with the blessing of a lawyer, he put roughly 50 of them up for sale in their original format. Other images from the vintage diagrams, cleaned up on Moore’s computer, have found their way onto the T-shirts ($12 to $22) and Warhol-esque pop-art posters he sells. Both the original and altered posters of everything from gourds and grass families to tapeworms, frogs, and chickens go for $22 (24” by 18”) or $30 (36” by 24”).

It was during Moore’s years playing high school basketball in Indiana that he first started thinking about working with young people as a career. Arriving at Bedichek in 1993 after graduation from the University of Texas at Austin, he coached for a year, then gave up athletics to focus solely on teaching. He liked the familial atmosphere at the mostly minority, low-income school so much, he never thought of teaching elsewhere. But after a dozen years on the job, “you don’t mind a change,” Moore says.

A computer-altered poster image that former teacher Chris Moore has put on T-shirts he sells.
A computer-altered poster image that former teacher Chris Moore has put on T-shirts he sells.

“Droppin’ science,” by the way, is a hip-hop term for sharing knowledge that Moore first encountered via the Beastie Boys. “They have a line in one of their songs—‘droppin’ science, like Galileo dropped the orange.’ It’s not accurate, but I always liked that,” he says, laughing.

Moore reports that starting the business cost him $10,000 and has been a seven-days-a-week job. Even so, “it’s still not as difficult as teaching,” he says. But if Droppin’ Science doesn’t succeed, he’ll return to the classroom next year, which “isn’t an awful idea,” he adds.

At least he won’t have any regrets about having tried something he’d been talking about doing for years. Who knows—the business might even turn out to be educational.

Vol. 18, Issue 03, Pages 46-47

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