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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Balch

No Sink? No Problem!

Do you wish you had more classroom sinks?

Do you wish you had any classroom sinks?

That was certainly my issue when I walked into our classroom for the first time and noticed there was a sink in the corner: I was thrilled, but I was also a little concerned because teaching science with just one sink can be a bit of an issue, especially with certain units, like dissection!

I had worked in the museum field (as well has having been a classroom teacher), and I was pretty familiar with portable sinks; the kind that is sold by scientific supply companies and knew that those were a possibility… but they're also over a thousand dollars! So they weren’t a contender considering my modest budget. And, besides, they’re a storage issue. They're a piece of furniture! They're on wheels, so that’s good, but nonetheless, they take up space I will otherwise need in a fairly small classroom.

Once I’d ruled them out, I wondered, "What about camping?" I had camped quite a bit and thought that there might be a solution there. So I looked into camping sinks and what might be available and came up with a pretty simple solution: Spigot jugs. Once I realized that sinks are simply a way to supply fresh water, I was able to hone in on that. And once I figured that out, we had to think through the collection and disposal of the water we used.

I tried a variety of collection items… I started with dishpans, but they didn’t contain the water, and they created a lot of splashes, buckets seemed a better option, but finally decided on kitchen trash cans. They kept the splash to a minimum, and the kids managed the setup pretty well.

We use two and a half gallon spigot jugs as our water dispensers. Any spigot jug should work, these retail for about $8. And tall kitchen trash cans—we use the 13-gallon size.

This little hack is part of a free online course on classroom organization that I developed... you can check it out here:

What are some things you'll need to think through?

How many you’ll need.

I bought four but rarely use all. The messier the lab, the more we need. And if I had larger classes or more classes back to back, I’d think about having extras if I didn’t have time to fill or empty buckets and instead just rotate them out.

Where you plan to put them.

I put them on a desk or table, preferably out of the way. Desks are portable so that’s a nice feature for using them. I can move them to the corners of the classroom to get them out of the way because typically with a sink, there tends to be a crowd of kids around it and I want to make sure that it's as much out of the way as possible.

How to dispose of the water.

Can you pour it down a sink? Typically I pour them into a toilet, taking care that there is nothing in them that shouldn't be flushed. Occasionally I'll have to fish out a paper towel or the like.

How to train kids to use them.

I taught middle school, but have used this same setup with upper elementary, and find that most kids need some guidance. Even when using regular sinks, kids will happily throw paper towels or frog guts or dirt into the sink. So talk that through with them before you start an activity so that they have a pretty clear idea of where to put the tools and the trash BEFORE heading to the sink to clean up. They’ll likely need some reminders to treat this as a sink and not as trash can it appears to be.

How long a jug will last.

This depends on

(1) how big your classes are

(2) how messy the thing is that you're cleaning up after.

Because some of our things are just a quick hand washing and others are real, real messy there’s no single answer to this question.

Where you’re going to store them.

One of the things I love about these is that a lot of other classes borrow them. They're so portable; they don't take up a whole lot of storage. The trash cans nest into each other and one or two jugs will fit into the nest of trash cans. Also, they’re super light when empty so they can be easily be stored on a high shelf if that’s an option.

This little hack is part of a free online course on classroom organization that I developed... you can check it out here:

Is this something you’d use in your classroom? Have you found another solution to this problem? If so, please share in the comment section below!

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