I have a little peek inside how I organize materials and store things for STEM class! It is rather daunting to think about putting all these materials away- and then being able to find things again or quickly! I thought about that the first year I set up a STEM Lab and I worked really hard that year to get a great system in place.
I know you will find some tips that will be useful to you as you organize for STEM class!
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Here is a quick look at some ideas for you!
- Cabinets and a great inventory system
- Bins of all kinds
- Clean-up items
I have details, photos, and tips for you! Let’s get organized!
Cabinets and How to Keep it All Straight!
Let me tell you now that my STEM lab has about 42 cabinets and drawers, plus each lab table has an additional 6 drawers. With that amount of storage, I knew from the beginning that I needed to have a good plan.
Let’s start with the insides of the cabinets. The best advice I can give you is to take a good look at all the materials you have and then draw a plan on paper. Label every cabinet with logical items that would be stored together.
The cabinet in the photo is all about measurement. Every item falls into that category.
This makes it easy to find these items later.
I arrived at this part of the plan because I first emptied all the cabinets and I arranged the contents on the lab tables in categories. The cabinets were all full, but nothing was together that should have been. Arranging it on the tables helped me place everything with similar items. When I started re-loading the cabinets it was easy to stock the categories together.
…I had so many cabinets. How would I ever remember where things were?
I decided I would number the cabinets. Every drawer and every cabinet has a number. Cabinet number 2 has all the measurement tools in it. Cabinet 42 has office supplies.
I used the numbers from an old calendar bulletin board set. I just laminated them and taped them in place.
…even with all these numbers, would I be able to find things?
I decided to take the time to create an inventory book.
This is going to seem extreme, but y’all this has saved me tons of time.
Let me explain the system!
As I loaded the cabinets I listed the contents in my inventory notebook- by the cabinet or drawer number. The pages of the notebook are numbered.
But, it occurred to me that this might not help. What if I needed something specific, like a needle. Where would that be? So, I also made an alphabetical listing. So, if I need a needle, I look at the N page and it tells me the number of the drawer where these are stored.
I cannot tell you how many times I have needed something and have no idea where it is. I pull out my inventory book and I can locate the item really quickly. This is a great help when the room is full of students that are building a tower and one team needs a needle for some reason.
So, let’s recap:
- Put things away logically in categories.
- Number your cabinets and drawers.
- Create an inventory book- which, by the way, you can do digitally if you prefer.
You are going to need some storage bins. Many sizes, with and without lids, and a place to put them!
I use the shelves of one of the lab tables to store some of the bins we have.
The size we use most often are plastic shoeboxes. I use these for sorting materials, preparing bins for teams to use, and for storing partially completed items that we need to save for another week.
We also use the double-wide shoebox bins. These are great for storing projects that are larger. And, like most teachers, I have plenty of plastic storage baskets. TIP: I don’t use these very often. Baskets have holes in them and pieces of projects will fall out.
Plastic pencil boxes are a great item for you. Each of our lab tables has several of these pencil boxes. One holds colored pencils, one has markers, and one has crayons.
I learned quickly that students are more likely to clean up crayons and pencils and markers by placing them in a large box rather than the box cardboard box they came in! And, the cardboard boxes fall apart.
These are the things we use during every class and they are easily grabbed from the caddy.
Also, a bonus for the caddy. Every team has a different color. I use this while randomly placing students at the team tables. TIP: Hand out colored cards in the matching table colors (the pencil caddies) when students arrive. So, if a student gets a red card that means he or she sits at the red table.
Of course, you also need some larger bins with lids. This makes the bins stackable.
I use these larger bins to store materials that have a theme. For example, all of our parachute-making materials are kept in the parachute bin.
TIP: I also have two of these that are full of scrap construction paper! Other items that need a large bin – cardboard, cardboard tubes, and foam scraps.
Can we talk about cleaning up?
We end every class with a clean-up procedure. This keeps materials put away and lessens the chaos a little.
One of the best items I ever purchased at Dollar Tree would be these little dustpans and brooms.
Every lab table has a pan and broom and a small garbage can. Part of cleaning up is collecting garbage to take and dump into the large can and sweeping up around the lab table.
TIP: Also put out your scrap boxes during clean-up time. Students can place gently used paper or other materials in those bins to reuse another day!
I hope you found some great tips to get your STEM space organized and ready for the school year! You might also enjoy these posts: