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The Ideal STEM Classroom Setup

The Ideal STEM Classroom Setup

When designing a STEM classroom, it’s important to look at the big picture, every step of the way. Even when you are choosing furniture for one particular part of the space, you need to be cognizant of how that will affect everything else. This is true in any space, but especially in a STEM classroom, where things are often rearranged or moved around. Flexible furniture is a staple of a STEM learning space, but if the layout does not allow for easy movement, then you won’t be able to really take advantage of the flexibility.

By keeping these 10 considerations in mind when choosing furniture for your STEM classroom, you will be able to make informed decisions and determine the best possible choices for your space:

1. Work Surface Material

Whether you choose laminate or epoxy, your choice should be made based on how you anticipate the space will be used. Most of the actual building and experimenting will be happening on the work surface, so it’s important to make sure that you make the best decision. A butcher block work surface, a popular choice for heavy-duty projects, is ideal for a space that will be focused on hands-on building and construction. However, when you are outfitting a space which will primarily be used for science experiments using chemicals, chemical-resistant or phenolic work surfaces are a better choice. If you want the flexibility to support both building and experiments, you can also choose to have a mix of work surface materials, to accommodate all of the possibilities.

2. Work Surface Shape and Size

With all of the building and planning students in the STEM classroom need to do, the shape and size of work surfaces is critical. Collaborative desks are ideal for a project-based learning environment, because they allow students to come together in clusters that are the perfect size for each individual task. Their unique shapes, are also designed to allow all members of a group to see each other easily, while they are working together. Collaboration tables in modular shapes are another good choice. The right option depends on which configurations will best fit in your space and serve the needs of your students.

3. Seating Material

Because it is so flexible and durable, polypropylene, or poly, chairs are a great option for the STEM classroom. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, so you can get something that coordinates with your classroom. The low-maintenance material can easily be wiped clean, which is very helpful when you have all sorts of materials that can accidentally spill in your workspace. The newer poly chairs are especially flexible and comfortable.

4. Seating Height

There are two main factors to consider when determining the ideal height for your seating. You need to fit the chairs to the size of the students, and the height of the work surfaces. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the seating has to be the same height. In fact, it is often preferable to offer a variety of chair heights, so each student can get the best fit for them, as well as some counter-height stools, if you have some work surfaces that will fit with them. Lab stools aren’t the only option any more. Active seating stools can be a great choice for the STEM classroom, because they allow students to enjoy dynamic movement while they work.

5. Project Storage

Most projects that are taking place in the STEM classroom will not be completed in one or two lessons. Having a safe and appropriate space to store them will ensure that students can pick up right where they left off, as soon as they come back into the classroom. Work tables with built-in storage are ideal for classrooms with limited space. Another option, is to have storage carts, which can be locked safely away in a closet or another room, and wheeled right in when their contents are needed. Whichever option is better for you, storing each group’s materials and prototypes in an individual large bin, which is then locked away in storage, is an ideal way to keep everything organized.

6. Supply Storage

STEM projects require a variety of materials and tools. Keeping each type of thing organized in an individual bin is the best way to provide easy access when students need something. Clear bins are the best option, because students can easily see what is in them, without even having to pull them out. This also streamlines cleanup, and fits in perfectly with a variety of storage carts. Makerspace storage carts serve this purpose beautifully, by offering all the benefits of standard bin storage, with the added bonus of special spaces for tools and materials that are unique to STEM learning environments.

7. 3D Printer Carts

If you have invested in a 3D printer for your learning space, it is wise to ensure you have an appropriate place to put it. 3D printers provide mobile storage for this device, as well as all of the materials and accessories that go along with it. If you want to keep this valuable equipment safely stored away when not in use, you can just roll the cart into a locked cabinet.

8. Plugging In:

The STEM classroom is a hub of modern education, so you will definitely need plenty of places for students to plug in their many digital devices. To maximize connectivity and charging options, choose power strips or built-in panels in furniture, which offer a selection of hookups including AC power, USB and HDMI. Make sure that these hookups are accessible, and help the classroom stay more organized, rather than creating clutter.

9. Negative Space

Arrange your classroom bearing in mind that you want to be able to rearrange it, even during a lesson. That means there needs to be enough open space around the furniture to maneuver any of the flexible furniture you have. Negative space should also include an open area that is allotted for testing and displaying large projects. This can also be an area for students who prefer to spread out and work on the floor, rather than sitting at tables.

10. Curriculum and Shared Space

By choosing furniture wisely, you might be able to use the same space as a fab lab, makerspace, and STEM room. A well-designed space, planned around the curriculum will enable you to satisfy the needs of many students, across many different disciplines. The interdisciplinary, project-based learning your students experience in this space will be unlike anything they can get anywhere else.

The more thought you put into developing your STEM classroom, the more your students will get out of this space. When you have a well-designed space, you are putting your students and faculty on the road to success, in developing critical 21st century skills. You don’t necessarily have to make all of the decisions and changes at once. By adopting even some of the best practices, you can improve your students’ learning experience in the STEM classroom exponentially.

Learn more about the Ideal STEM classroom here.

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