Video/Data projectors are greatly preferred over video monitors. Even the largest video monitor can not display text at a size large enough to be read by students throughout the room. On the other hand, a video/data projector can project images as large as the wall. The cost and size of these projectors is steadily coming down and the light output is steadily increasing, putting their affordability and usefulness in the range of most schools. Provide a large (minimum 6′ high by 8′ wide) projection screen within each science teaching space. Hanging the projector from the ceiling aimed at the projection screen may limit the locations in which that projector can be used, but it greatly increases the ability of the projector to accept a variety of inputs and ensures that it will be there when needed (not in an adjacent classroom being used by others). Along with the video projector, consider the use of small video cameras in the science classroom; several manufacturers have produced affordable models that can be plugged into the eyepiece of a microscope, or easily transported around the room to project an image, through the video/data projector, of virtually anything. Use the “flexcam” in place of an overhead projector as well. One of the cells in the perimeter raceway or an outlet in recessed floor boxes might be wired with video cable to permit connection to the projector from multiple locations.
Interactive white boards have begun to have an impact in science classrooms. At least two manufacturers are producing these devices which can reproduce images directly from a computer without a projector and can be used as a projection screen for a video/data projector. Since the screen is also a markerboard, it can be used as such, but one additional advantage is that, with special markers designed for the product, the material written on the screen can interact with the computer program and be saved as a file. The Illinois Math & Science Academy in Aurora, IL is utilizing these screens intensively. As the technology improves, their usefulness will increase. At this writing the major drawback is limited screen size.
Storage is a critical issue for school science facilities. Science teachers are inveterate pack rats who will never throw anything away. Many items in store rooms and prep rooms, or stored in unused fume hoods, are covered with a quarter inch of dust. Large quantities of chemicals donated by Johnnie’s uncle who worked for Monsanto back in the 1920’s are still stored in inadequately ventilated chemical store rooms.
The NSTA Guide to School Science Facilities recommends a minimum of 10 square feet per student be devoted to prep and storage spaces for each lab/classroom. Such spaces should be immediately adjacent to the teaching space that they serve and have view windows from the prep/storage room into the lab/classroom for adequate supervision. The separate storage spaces should house those items that cannot safely be stored in the classroom including chemicals and other hazardous materials, equipment that should only be used with close supervision, and expensive items such as laptop computers that might easily walk out if not kept in a separate, lockable space.