Remember also, that the teacher is probably taller than all the students and should have counter space and a sink at adult height (i.e.: 36″). The NSTA Guide to School Science Facilities provides an age-appropriate Table of Critical Dimensions in Appendix C. If an eyewash and/or safety shower is provided, the eyewash nozzles and the safety shower handle should be lowered to student height.

A separate prep/storage room should also be provided so that dangerous items are stored and the teacher can prepare demonstrations away from students. Many of the items used in elementary science programs are fairly small and can be grouped by activity. Consider using tote-trays (available from all science casework manufacturers or from most discount stores) for storage of like items on shelves in cabinets. If an old library card-catalog is available, it will make a wonderful storage facility for elementary science items.

Wherever possible, provide access to outdoor spaces that are planned to enhance the science learning experience. If the facility will be a new building, recommend maintaining as much of the existing natural environment as possible. For example, an elementary school in St. Charles County, MO, retained an area of tall grass prairie in which the school was built and enhanced it with brush piles, additional tree plantings, and large examples of native Missouri stone donated and placed by a nearby quarry. Students can and do spend significant amounts of time outdoors investigating the plants and animals that live in this fairly natural environment and studying how the recently planted trees affect the flow of wind and the amount of sunlight at various areas around the building. Rather than construct the typical concrete drainage ditch to carry off rain water from an elementary school building in Boulder, CO, the architect created a replica of a Rocky Mountain stream with rounded river stones and native plants. What could have been an eyesore is a beautiful amenity that also provides multiple teaching opportunities.


Most current middle school programs have a mix of physical and life sciences. Earth science, introduction to biology, introduction to physical science, and introduction to the human body often form the basic curriculum as students expand their knowledge of the scientific method and begin to research various topics in more depth. Investigations in which students work more independently are introduced and, in some programs, students may also design their own investigations to answer specific questions.