New Science Facilities

Our community recently approved a bond issue to, among other things, replace our 1960’s era science classrooms. They are poorly equipped and woefully small.

I have been keeping a “wish list” to share with the architects and engineers during our consultations between now and the end of construction. We break ground in the spring.

Physics teachers, what classroom features, bulit-ins, and equipment would you consider essential to include in a new facility? What would be on your ‘wishlist’?

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15 thoughts on “New Science Facilities

  1. Movable tables (either chair height or stool height).
    Pull down electrical source from ceiling (no wires on the ground)
    Heavy duty I-bar(s) hanging from the ceiling (I don’t use it, but I’ve seen it used)
    School I was at over the summer had 1 m markings in the tile floor

    That’s all I can think of right now.

  2. In terms of storage, I would specifically look for designated space for long items. Items such as air tracks and dynamics-cart tracks can wind up on top of cabinets instead of inside them. They tend to collect a lot of dust up there and make the room appear cluttered.

  3. We renovated our physics room a couple of years ago. Key features:

    * movable tables and chairs
    * tables are the same height as lab counters which allows them to be moved and aligned with lab counters for some labs
    * concrete floor instead of tile: can write on with chalk, put tape on without damaging wax, dries quickly if wet
    * no ceiling tiles – instead uni-strut bars from which all sorts of stuff can be hung
    * overhead retractable power cords over each pair of tables
    * whiteboard wall (we did it with whiteboard paint, if I were to do it again, I would just install huge whiteboards along the wall which would work better and be less expensive)
    * flexible lighting: I can independently turn off lights in the front and back of the room; in addition, I can “dim” the lights by turning off half of all the lights (this is handy for optics)
    * lots of outlets along the walls

  4. We just finished a remodel and have floor to ceiling whiteboards on two walls. But then you need a projector screen since the WB surface too shiny. Moveable and height adjustable tables, rolling chairs. Storage. Some of our new rooms have whiteboard surface on the cabinets. We have the ceiling bars too. Some of the rooms have outlets in the floor in you plug the whole table in.

  5. Separate lab area – although movable tables would allow for smaller room if they were nestable
    If you must have sinks, place them strategically so you can have at least one long (4-5 m), unbroken stretch of LEVEL countertop
    Storage should be a mix of drawers and cabinets to hold equipment of various sizes.
    If you use laptops or chromebooks to collect data, have an angled bookshelf above countertops on the wall so they can use the countertop for lab equipment.
    A friend of mine painted large sections (6′ x 8′ or 10′) of the wall white, then put plexiglass over those spaces to use as whiteboards (writing on the plexi).
    Integrated DC power supplies that you could control (turn on/off, limit voltage) from one location?

  6. Had a complete remodel for a 9th grade lab. We got most of the above features, and I agree with nearly all of them. Our technology vendor persuaded the builders to put in a fancy new whiteboard with a less glossy surface; it’s very very slightly better for watching videos but much much harder to erase. So, stick with plain old flat shiny ones and if the kids get a glare from the projector just ask them to move .2 meters. Also, we are very happy with the four by five pegboard for tools. (Our kids are amazing about not taking stuff and fairly good about putting stuff back where they got it.) Shelving and cabinetry like crazy, and try to get shelving with adjustable shelves. Finally, consider sound reflections. We had to put acoustic padding on 45% of the ceiling after suffering through a horrible echoey room that was almost impossible to teach in, and I wish they had gone to 50 or 55%.

  7. Blackout shades on the windows for making the room dark for optics. This was not included in our new rooms at my previous school, and our make-do solution was only temporarily successful.

  8. I MOVED THE demonstration desk to the back so that the students were closer to the white boarding. Advantage was could double as a student station too. Not hard for them to stand 300 degrees around when I showed prelab. Cupboards top and bottom on back three walls. even had white boards on rollers across the front of my room with 1 ft cubby holes behind and room on top for air tracks

  9. You can’t have too much storage.

    Also, Think about your technology needs. How will the wiring get from your computer to the projector, what type of sound system is included. Are the tracks for cabling big enough so that the next gen of cables will pass through.

  10. Excellent suggestions. Something not mentioned is to have the tops of the lab benches be clear and free from gas outlets, water and sinks. Put them at one end of the lab table so that you have the entire lab bench to use for experiments. Electrical outlets on the sides below the bench top. Lab bench tops should be smooth and heat resistant – not laminate! Epoxy+concrete is a good choice. Good luck!

  11. Most of my suggestions have nothing to do with science, but with organization.

    #1. Plenty of electrical outlets that are accessible and meet fire code. I had to add outlets last spring because fire code disallowed strips plugged into strips.
    #2. Storage. You can never have enough. Also, counter space for storage of larger items.
    #3. Storable tables so you can convert your space into a floor workspace. Instead of going to the hallway or gym for activities.
    #4. Whiteboard- use the real thing. Don’t let them convince you to use shower board. I have the real thing- still looks good after 16 years. My colleagues have shower board and have had to replace them in two years.

    I use mine for projection also, and have good luck (projector is ceiling mounted)
    #5. Shades for all windows, so you can darken your room.
    Jim, let me say I am envious, and wish you well in you planning!!

  12. While I do not teach physics, I would suggest from my experience remodeling my high school chemistry lab last year that you review the plans for cabinets and counters and find all the space available for storage that designers tend to overlook. Anywhere you can squeeze in a cabinet or drawer, do it. Also, consider including cabinets with trays that you can set up for activities for each lab group.

    Leave room for the goggle cabinet and gloves somewhere and any other required safety equipment.

  13. I agree with the storage… I convinced my architect that there had to be a few drawers in the room whose INSIDE dimension was just over a meter long.
    For physics, nothing on the table top but table top. ALL electrical, water, gas, should be end mounted or side mounted.
    Blackout shades on all windows including the door windows is a must for any optics.
    I also convinced my architect, who insisted on a drop ceiling to hide HVAC and pipes for other floors of the building, that I had to have truss-work in the front of my classroom to hang multiple heavy things from for demonstration purposes. I got it through and I use it for EVERYthing. It is sturdy enough that my assistant principal and I hung from it at the same time. SO I have been able to go large with many of my demos… Newtons cradle out of bowling balls, giant springs, giant pendulums, etc.
    Finally, they wanted to center the demo table, like all of the other science rooms (chemistry, earth science, environmental science, etc.) but I convinced them to place the demo table just enough off-center that I have a nice floor space in the front of the room which is great for demos like spinning in office chairs with bicycle wheels, swinging things around my head, etc.

  14. See Bob Morse’s presentation at 1998 Aug3-8 AAPT meeting. I think he also did article in “The Physics Teacher”.
    Have GFCI, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, type of circuit breakers or else GFCI outlets for all outlets for people safety. Regular circuit breakers only protect the wiring and equipment.
    Have master water, gas valves and circuit breaker(s) at front of room, either near exit door or near teacher’s desk/table.
    Have space for students to park their coats and backpacks. Nothing should be on floor; traffic hazard. .
    In dealing with architects and contractors, have everything in writing. You keep a copy. Possibly have them sign that they got your comments. Visit the project every working day to inspect. Stop errors early.

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