Tomorrow’s Science in Yesterday’s Buildings

Many high school science classrooms, including those recently designed and/or renovated, are not equipped for 21st-century science. Typical problems with existing facilities include insufficient space, overcrowded classrooms, designs that limit a teacher’s ability to supervise the class, no separation of lab and lecture functions, inadequate storage, no preparation space or individual/small group project space, no faculty office space, and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In 1996, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) published Pathways to the Science Standards, a guidebook for high school science departments on ways to achieve the National Academy of Science’s 1996 National Science Education Standards.

Appendix C of this volume, Designing High School Science Facilities,” makes a number of recommendations that will help schools achieve these national standards. Following is a sample.

Space requirements
Pathways recommends

  • 60 square feet per student (min.) For a combination lab/classroom
  • 45 square feet for a lab without lecture space
  • 24 students be the maximum number served in a science lab/classroom
  • Aisles at least 36″ wide running between all fixed items and sufficient space to allow for a wheelchair to turn around in all dead-end locations (60″ diameter circle or a T-shaped space with a minimum dimension of 36″ and an overall dimension of 60″ square)
  • 15 square feet per computer station should be added to the total area required. Most science rooms have not been designed with adequate space for computers and the accompanying keyboards, mouses, books and papers, and users.