Prep and storage space should be provided immediately adjacent to middle school lab/classrooms. The NSTA Guide to School Science Facilities recommends an area of 10 square feet per student for prep and storage space. One effective design is to arrange two lab classrooms with a shared storage and prep space between them. The prep/storage room should have a separate door to the corridor to allow teachers access to the space while class is in session in the adjacent lab/classroom. View windows between the prep/storage room and the adjacent lab/classrooms should be provided to allow for teacher supervision of the lab/classroom from the prep room. Refrigerators, microwave ovens, and dishwashers are often provided in prep areas in addition to counter space, at least one large sink, and base and wall cabinets.
A space for long-term student projects should be provided as hands-on, inquiry-based science often involves investigations that last more than one class period. Consider the need for security and safety of the project materials as well as supervision of the students working in the space. Provide view windows between this space and the corridor and/or adjacent lab/classroom spaces. A high ceiling, or no ceiling, can allow students to assemble projects that would not fit within the standard classroom ceiling height of 9-10 feet. The ability to suspend objects from the ceiling or the structure above can enhance the functionality of this space. The project space should be provided with a hot and cold water source, adequate electrical power, a floor drain, and daylight.
Outdoor activities continue at the middle school level and become more sophisticated and are carried out over an extended period of time. In new construction, maintain as much of the original natural surroundings as possible and enhance, or reclaim them to provide outdoor learning areas for science. A middle school in Barrington, IL is constructed adjacent to a large wetland; the architect’s specifications called for restoring and maintaining the wetland in its natural state. It provides a wonderful opportunity to observe and investigate the living systems in and around a pond. Another school adjacent to a wetland included a “mud room” as an outdoor entry to its biology lab/classroom. The space was designed to permit the storage on hooks of waders and other equipment used to examine pond life, to wash off these items with the water draining to a floor drain, and to move between lab/classroom and the adjacent wetland at will.
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS (9-12)
Many high schools still plan their lab/classrooms for specific scientific disciplines: Physics, Chemistry, Biology and some sort of introductory science course. The specific requirements of each of these spaces can be different, but could, if desired, be accommodated in a common design. Investigations in which students work more independently are common and students are often required to design their own investigations to answer specific questions.
High school science teaching spaces should be primarily combination lab/classrooms with an assortment of auxiliary spaces to supplement these basic building blocks. Perimeter counters, base cabinets and sinks and wall cabinets are common; although, in some specific areas, fixed islands may be desired.