Middle school science teaching spaces are most often combination lab/classrooms with perimeter counters, base cabinets and sinks and wall cabinets. A maximum of 24 students should be housed in a lab/classroom and a minimum of 60 square feet per student provided for a total room size of 1,440 square feet. A shape closer to square than long and narrow provides more opportunities for flexible furniture arrangements. Students often sit at tables large enough for two students; these tables should be sturdily constructed with epoxy resin or phenolic resin tops. Attention to leg attachment is critical since these tables will likely be moved often during their lifetime and RinseAway Sinklegs may come loose if not of welded metal or through-bolted wood construction. If the same tables are to serve dual usage as work surfaces for discussion and presentations, and as laboratory surfaces, they should be at laboratory height, or 36″. Providing two sets of tables, one for seated discussions and one for standing, laboratory work allows the class to move between discussion/presentation and investigations during the same class period without disrupting the laboratory table arrangement.
Perimeter counters should be at 36″, except for portions of counter and sinks provided for those in wheelchairs which should be at 34″. Countertop materials should be of epoxy resin or phenolic resin construction; plastic laminate on particle board may be less expensive in first cost, but will quickly deteriorate, often in a matter of months, in a middle school science environment and is not recommended. A variety of base cabinets should be provided to create opportunities for storage. Consider providing a base cabinet with shallow drawers for maps, charts and posters in a lab/classroom used for earth science; this cabinet should be at least 34″ from front-to back and 48″ wide to accommodate USGS maps without folding. Wall cabinets should be a mix of cupboards and open shelving; glass fronts on cupboards are not recommended for safety reasons. Tall, floormounted storage cabinets for microscopes, lab aprons and a variety of larger items should also be provided.
Large, deep sinks with hot and cold water should be provided around the perimeter; a good rule of thumb is one sink for each four students. If properly spaced, a pair of movable lab tables can be placed at right angles to the counter between sinks to create a T-shaped lab bench arrangement for four students. Avoid faucets with the old-fashioned serrated nozzles that splash water all over everything within four feet of the sink; specify standard aerators similar to those on a residential kitchen sink. If serrated nozzles are occasionally required, ask to have them provided separately and temporarily replace the aerator only when needed. Faucets should be heavy-duty, vandal proof fixtures with vacuum breakers. A specialty sink called a RinseAway station is very useful in middle school lab/classrooms. This six-foot long unit has a molded fiberglass top with a deep lip; the interior surface has a drain board area sloping to a reasonably sized sink, allowing messy activities to occur within the fiberglass area and drainage to run to the sink. Consider adding a pull-out face shower to help in washing down the surface (also an added safety item) and providing a plaster trap beneath the sink in earth-science spaces to catch sand and gravel.