Rows of clear test tubes with the tip of a clear dropper in the middle

9 Science Class Supplies that Will Make Your Job Easier

July 10, 2024 No Comments

I’ve been working in science education for 17 years, and during this time, I’ve encountered many common classroom problems. As a result, I’ve developed unique solutions that can make a significant difference in the science classroom. Whether you’re teaching elementary, middle, or high school, these strategies can help create a more effective learning environment for your students. Here are some practical science class supplies that will make your life easier and solve common problems.

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Science Class Supplies that Solve Problems

In my years of working with science teachers, I’ve heard many common classroom problems. Often, teachers struggle with preparing labs for multiple courses, managing supplies, and ensuring efficient cleanup after experiments. These challenges can make teaching science more stressful and less enjoyable. However, with some practical solutions, these issues can be easily managed, leading to a smoother, more effective science classroom experience. Here are ten solutions to address these common science classroom problems.

Problems with Science Class Supplies in the Lab

Sometimes the problems associated with labs feel endless. In my career, I’ve never taught fewer than two different courses at once. For example, broken, missing, or misplaced materials are a constant headache. Each additional course compounds the problem. Often, these issues cause teachers to avoid hands-on activities altogether. Here are some solutions to common problems.

Broken Rulers

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard teachers complain about their rulers being broken. Usually, they aren’t broken maliciously. Instead, students fidget with them and bend them until they snap.

Solution: Try using a ruler that bends instead of breaks.

I prefer to use measuring tape like the kind my grandma used to keep in her sewing kit. Their flexibility makes for super simple storage. Also, they are longer and less expensive that most other rulers.

Graphing Data

Graphing is a challenging task for both teachers and students because it requires a significant amount of time to plot points accurately. This process often becomes tedious and distracts from the core objective of understanding the underlying concepts. When students spend too much time on the mechanics of graphing, they struggle to make sense of the data. Consequently, the focus shifts from analyzing and interpreting the data to merely completing the graph, which hinders the overall learning experience.

Bar graph made out of blue painters tape on a white background. There is a text box over the top that says "Instructional strategy- Use painters tape to take measurements and create graphs."

A simple solution to this problem is using chart paper and painter’s tape. Use the painter’s tape to measure and create a bar graph, as I’ll show in the picture below. This method saves time and helps students focus on interpreting the data.

4 Rolls Blue Painters Tape
$5.99

So many uses from labels to graphs.

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07/12/2024 07:38 pm GMT

Labs for Different Courses on the Same Day

Preparing for multiple classes on the same day can be a daunting task for science teachers. Often, they find themselves cleaning up between periods, only to have to set up the same supplies later in the day. Additionally, preparing different lab activities for various courses on the same day adds another layer of complexity. This constant setup and cleanup cycle can be time-consuming and exhausting.

A practical solution to this problem is to use plastic storage containers with lids. These containers allow for quick cleanup and can be stacked and stored neatly, keeping the classroom organized. With the lids, the materials are less accessible to students who aren’t participating in the lab that day, ensuring safety and order. By using these containers, teachers can efficiently manage their supplies and reduce the time spent on preparation, allowing them to focus more on teaching and less on logistics.

The are also other reasons that I prefer these containers over other solutions. For example, these containers can be stored efficiently by stacking lids and boxes separately, saving valuable classroom space. They are also very inexpensive, making it affordable to have several on hand. By using these containers, teachers can efficiently manage their supplies and reduce the time spent on preparation, allowing them to focus more on teaching and less on logistics.

Sterilite 16 Qt Storage Boxes 12-Pack
$49.99

These are stackable and easily stored. They make great lab supply boxes and have multiple uses in the science classroom.

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07/16/2024 02:38 pm GMT

Organizing Science Supplies

Science teachers often face significant challenges in organizing their supplies. With a wide variety of materials, from lab equipment to everyday classroom items, keeping everything in order can be overwhelming. The need to quickly access supplies for different lessons and labs adds to the complexity. Additionally, limited storage space and the constant movement of materials can lead to clutter and inefficiency.

Here are some practical solutions that you likely haven’t thought of yet.

Endless Papers and Multiple Courses

Science teachers often face unique challenges when it comes to organizing paperwork. They are more likely than teachers in other disciplines to teach multiple preps or courses, making it difficult to keep track of various documents. Science is also a very paper-intensive subject, requiring the organization of papers for labs, data analysis, and other handouts. Additionally, managing student work adds another layer of complexity.

My solution to this problem is using a file crate to store all handouts and materials for multiple courses. I have a file for each course for each day of the week, which is color-coded for easy identification. I also include files for items I need to bring to the office.

Color coded crate file box.  The files have 5  blue and 5 pink tabs labeled Monday thgouth Friday.  There are yellow tabs with labels "to copy", "to file", "to office"

Bonus: This cuts down on the time I spend making copies. I keep a file for the things I need to copy. Then, once a week, I bring the entire crate with me to the copy room, I can file papers directly in the correct spot. This method is a huge time saver and helps me stay organized, ensuring that I always have the necessary materials on hand for each class.

Sterilite Plastic Heavy Duty File Crate Stacking Storage (2 Pack)
$27.80

If you teach multiple classes, these are a life saver. Use them to organize handouts, interactive notebooks and more.

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07/16/2024 02:39 pm GMT

Organizing the Little Science Class Supplies

Is it just me, or are the cabinets and drawers in science classrooms exactly the wrong shape for organizing things? As science teachers, we have a ton of weird, irregularly shaped items to organize, from beakers and test tubes to various lab equipment.

My favorite solution is using clear plastic drawer organizers. However, these organizers tend to slide around in the drawer, creating more chaos than order. Clea and Joanna from The Home Edit suggest using museum gel at the base of these organizers to hold them in place. This simple trick allows you to customize your organization to meet all of your needs, ensuring that every item has its place and stays put.

All of the Random Stuff that Needs to Be Handed Out

As science teachers, we spend a lot of time handing out supplies. While storage buckets are great for distributing many items at once, sometimes we need to give students materials in stages. Lab supplies aren’t the only things we hand out; we often have piles of card sorts and other materials that need to be organized and ready to go.

My go-to catch-all for organizing and distributing all the random stuff are food storage bags. I always have a variety of sizes on hand for whatever comes up in the classroom. I feel like I use this more than any other supply. And while I don’t like the idea of using plastic, I make sure the supplies go back into these bags to reduce waste. This method keeps everything organized and easily accessible, ensuring a smooth distribution process.

Miscellaneous Problems in the Science Classroom

Because of the nature of science, the challenges we face in our classroom are unique. With the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), it’s expected that we promote student autonomy in the classroom. This expectation adds another layer of complexity to managing our classrooms effectively. Here are some simple solutions to all of the other random problems that we face, aimed at fostering an environment where students can take charge of their learning while keeping everything running smoothly.

Being Needed in Multiple Places at Once

Another challenge we face is that students often get stuck when completing tasks in our classrooms. They are asked to read and follow written instructions, problem-solve, and more. While we probably spend less time at the front of the classroom than other teachers, we also run around a lot more. If students are waiting for help, they tend to stop what they are doing. This leads to wasted time, off-task behavior, and more.

Luckily, I observed a teacher who had a brilliant solution. She placed touch lights throughout her classroom. When students had an issue, they turned on the touch light to indicate to the teacher that they needed support. The teacher had taught the students strategies they could use to continue working until she arrived. This way, they didn’t have to wait with their hands up or wander around the classroom to get her attention. This simple system reduced downtime and kept students engaged in their tasks.

Tap Light Push Lights, Cool White 5 Pack
$9.99

Add one of these to each station. Ask students to turn their light on when they need help, then turn it off after they get support.

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07/12/2024 07:38 pm GMT

Encouraging Students to Complete Assignments

More and more schools are switching to standards-based grading. While this is a much more equitable practice, many students struggle during the transition, leading to a noticeable drop in assignment completion. This may sound silly, but I’ve found that teachers who walk around the classroom and stamp the work of students who are on task have a much higher work completion rate, even though the stamps don’t correlate to anything in the gradebook.

Positive reinforcement is a major motivator for many students. By simply acknowledging their effort with a stamp, students feel recognized and encouraged to continue working. While some students may still resist doing work, this trick is likely to get most of your students moving in the right direction. It’s a simple yet effective way to boost participation and ensure students stay engaged with their assignments.

I like this stamp set because the primary focus is positive. And, I find these work really well for stamping interactive notebooks.

Stamp Joy - 6 Self-Ink Flash Stamp Set
$10.99

Stamping the papers of students who are on task is a surprisingly good motivator!

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07/09/2024 11:45 pm GMT

Getting Students to Collaborate and Draft Models

Sometimes students are so concerned about making a mistake that they become afraid to start creating their models. Whiteboards are a great solution to this problem. I generally have students work in pairs or triads so they can collaborate on their ideas. After students observe a phenomenon, they draft their initial models on these boards.

I really like these boards because they can be used for other activities as well. For example, during checks for understanding, I ask questions and students display their responses on the boards. They are also handy for students to write down their data during investigations. Additionally, these boards are inexpensive enough to be easily replaced if a few are lost or damaged. Using whiteboards encourages students to take risks and collaborate, enhancing their learning experience.

36 Pack Double Sided 12.5 x 9 Inch Dry Erase Boards with 36 Erasers and 36 Markers,
$46.99

Great for initial models and ideas. Have students work in pairs to increase collaboration.

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07/10/2024 01:07 am GMT
Erin Sadler

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