Thursday, January 9, 2014

Organizing Science Materials in the Classroom {tips, ideas, centers}

Today I'm going to share some tips and ideas with you about organizing and storing science materials in the classroom. I've also rounded up some pictures of science centers that provide students with the ability to explore and discover.

Let’s start with the big units you teach.  If you are like most schools then you share the resources for the required units with other teachers at your grade level. If this is the case you may want to consider sharing the storage responsibilities. Perhaps you could house all of the Simple Machine materials while another teacher stores everything related to the water cycle. This will allow your team to keep the kits complete and make rotating them easier.

Determine which science-related items span several themes as well as materials you may have that students will be interested in using regularly at choice time (microscopes, magnifying glasses, etc). Store these in containers with labels that students can easily access and put away as needed.

I find it is very helpful to distribute the supplies needed for a science activity all together by partners or science groups. Investing in a set of dishpans will allow you to do this. I like dishpans because they can be neatly stacked into each other and stored easily when not in use.

Trays serve this same purpose. They also stack neatly and can be slid on their side into a cabinet for storage.

Much like storing seasonal/holiday items and thematic units, you’ll want to obtain a large, transparent bin that is large enough to hold everything in your collection together.

Keep an inventory of what is included. You’ll want a copy in the box and another that is accessible to you at all times.

You might want to keep the related papers (worksheets, lesson ideas, plans, etc) in a binder that is separate from the bin. This will allow you to update your unit easily as you find additional resource or align the current materials to the Common Core.

Use smaller containers within the larger bin. For example, as part of my Magnetism unit the students test a variety of objects to determine if they are magnetic. I have prepared bags with the materials a pair of students will need. I then placed all of those small bags together into one large Ziploc bag along with copies of the recording sheets so the activity is ready for the next year.   

{photo sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Borrow, don’t buy. Prior to starting a new unit I look for related book titles on Amazon. I then take that list to my local library website and request the titles through them. They are kind enough to gather them from surrounding towns and I make one stop to pick up 20-40 books for my students to enjoy. Then comes the best part...I return them all to the library until next year. This saves me tons on money and storage space.

Keeping digital copies of your printed resources will also save you lots of space.

Ask parents to donate consumable items. When we do our plant unit, we request seeds, soil, cups, fruit, etc from parents. We use all that we need and then pass on the remaining items to other classrooms so there is nothing to store.

Borrow as much as you can. I live in the Boston area and both the Museum of Science and the New England Aquarium have educator resource centers and allow teachers to check out kits for the classroom. These contain amazing resources, books and materials that enhance my teaching and don’t need to be stored in my classroom. Check out the local options in your area.

Do you have a tip to share? How do you store your science materials?


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