Getting your STEM lab organized before the end of the school year can be an exhausting task, but following these seven simple tips will help you get it all done in a flash. From taking pictures and cleaning out your cabinets to creating a classroom set-up box with everything you need for Day 1 of the new school year, STEM lab organization has never been easier.
1. Take pictures of classroom spaces and systems that work well.
One of the best things you can do to help you back-to-school you is take pictures of areas of your classroom that worked well for you this year. The beginning of the year is always so busy and requires endless amounts of energy. Pictures that show exactly how you put together you favorite bulletin board and how you organized the white board will be wonderful tools come August or September. Then you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and you can save brainpower for things you want to change or improve.
2. Consolidate and sort all materials.
Take some time to go through all materials and supplies in your STEM lab. Separate the items that need to be disposed of from the ones that can be reused or stored for the summer. When going through different groups of materials, consider consolidating them together into one place for better management and organization. You can also sort them into various categories so you know exactly where everything is when needed later on.
I LOVE to use clear plastic containers for organizing similar items inside my cabinets. Then when I need marbles for that one lesson, I can quickly scan what’s in the cupboard and grab what I need.
3. Develop storage plans for materials.
Storing items correctly at the end of the year can save you so much time come next school year. Develop a storage plan that best fits your lab’s needs. If you have multiple sets of equipment, label and group them together in clear containers or bags. This will help you quickly locate what you need for easier setup for future use.
4. Clean lab surfaces and equipment.
Make sure to clean lab surfaces and equipment before storing them away. Dust, lubricants, and other debris can ruin movable parts. Wiping off equipment with a damp cloth helps reduce the potential for damage in storage. Check any pieces of equipment that require additional cleaning instructions for special instructions. Cleaning your lab materials beforehand will save you time when you start using them again the following school year.
5. Evaluate existing lab equipment and resources for updating or replacement needs.
Any lab equipment that needs replacing or updating needs to be identified and addressed before the next school year. Evaluate which supplies can no longer be used, need replacing, or need updating. Create a budget for any new equipment and resources needed for the lab. Also, take inventory of all your existing lab materials and make sure everything is in its designated spot.
I like to keep a running supplies shopping list on my phone, so I can quickly add items to it when I realize I’m running low. It’s easy to reference this list when donations are offered or you find a great deal.
Would you like more support with STEM lab organization for the upcoming school year? Check out this free STEM Materials Guide!
6. Make a classroom set-up box.
As you pack up your classroom for the year, be sure to set aside items for a classroom set-up box. This is a box that contains the supplies and materials you will need the first couple days back before you unpack the rest of your classroom. It can include things like scissors, tape, a stapler, pens, tech cords, and any other items you need right away. Then clearly label your classroom set-up box. Future you will be so happy when you come into your classroom after the break and have those crucial items right at your fingertips.
7. Secure valuable items.
Secure your valuable items before you leave for the summer. As STEM teachers, we often have valuable materials that would cost a lot to replace. With summer programs, cleaning crews, and all the other people in and out of the school throughout the summer, it’s really important to ensure your materials are safe. This may mean locking items up in a closet or taking items home. Find out what your school’s policies are. When my school is used as a summer school location, I’ve secure my cabinets with zip ties to deter people using my classroom from themselves to the materials I needed for next school year.
Bonus: Make copies of your back-to-school materials.
If you’ve got a handle on STEM lab organization steps 1-7, you can take it to the next level and make copies of materials you need for the first week of school. Even if you aren’t sure about your exact schedule yet, there are things you can prep now to help back-to-school you. Avoid copy machine drama in the fall by prepping things like “Meet the Teacher” handouts, supplies lists, and getting to know activities now. You may want to put the copies in your “classroom set-up box” or take a picture to remind yourself where you put them before you leave for the summer.