Organizing Your Science Equipment



Last week we discussed storing small items such as office supplies and smallish pieces of equipment used on a regular basis. Today we’ll look at the science equipment that is specific to unit studies.


As I work through various units, I find there’s a lot of equipment specific to that unit. In my early classrooms, I had plenty of cupboard space to store everything, so I didn’t have to be strategic, but in the more recent ones, that simply wasn’t the case. I had to figure out how to store this equipment and how to transfer it into and out of our classroom efficiently. 


Now we use large plastic tubs, both deep and shallow ones that have similar footprints so that they can stack. I  pack the equipment into and store these in metal cabinets that are outside the classroom. While some units require much more equipment than others, overall I focus on storing each unit’s equipment into as few and small tubs as possible. I don’t worry about storing items that go together as long as everything in a single bin belongs to a single unit. 


Our curriculum is lab-based: we do labs every day. Since a unit can have up to 20 labs, it can add up to a lot of equipment. I’m able to store about a year’s worth of units in a single large cabinet. Many units have a single, designated bin, but others have three or four. Each bin is marked with the unit it belongs to.


Pic showing one of the unit boxes of equipment--can you tell for which unit??


When we start a unit, I unpack all the specific equipment from that unit’s bins and place it neatly on a rolling cart or side table. At this time I’ll gather anything from the supply cabinet that we’ll need (compasses, steel balls, timers, etc.) In general, students help themselves from this stash and work through the labs at their own pace and sequence. 


They are in charge of returning and tidying the equipment for the next class and packing it up at the end of our day. We share the room with multiple teachers and subjects, so the equipment is out of their way and still ready for us when we resume classes. 


I have few rules in my classroom, but one thing I hammer home is that EVERYTHING in the lab is a piece of science equipment: whether it’s tape or balloons or beakers, everything is to be treated as science equipment and not to be wasted or misused. If they have a hard time remembering this, students know that they become observers and not participants in the lab for a class period or two. In general, the students are respectful, but they do need an occasional reminder. 


The next blog post discusses over-sized and display equipment and you can find that one here. If you missed last week’s blog on Organizing Science Supplies, you could check it out here.