The best place in school to learn science practically is the science lab. An adequately organized science lab can help students develop their skills and understanding of the subject.
How does an organized science lab affect students' learning?
Laboratories are designed with the intention of making the learning experience fun and engaging. But this isn't always the case. Poor design can negatively affect the student's learning. One example of this is when the lab is not laid out in the most efficient way, making it difficult for students to find what they are looking for. Whereas, a clean and organized laboratory is the ideal laboratory. It encourages learning, retention, and the most important part - fun!
Here are 6 easy steps that you can use to organize your lab
1. Keep Pipettes And Tips Reachable
Pipettes and tips tend to get easily misplaced, but that shouldn't stop you from keeping your school lab organized.
To do this, place your pipettes and tips in a tray. If you don't have a tray, consider using a small toolbox or plastic container. It's recommended that you make a little mark on the container in order to identify which pipette or tip is inside.
Another way you can try is to place pipettes on the side of your dominant hand on a stand and place tip boxes within arm’s reach to the back of the bench on the side of your dominant hand. Keep only what you need on the working surface at any given time, and store excess supplies elsewhere. Store waste bins on the side of your dominant hand for easy tip ejection.
2. Store solutions tactfully
It is common practice for science teachers and other school personnel to receive regular training on hazardous chemicals and waste. Nevertheless, we often find incompatible chemicals stored together, sometimes due to the alphabetical storage of chemicals rather than by compatibility, and sometimes unintentionally. To safely store chemicals, the following tips are helpful; Label all chemical containers fully. We recommend including the owner’s or user’s name along with the date received. Provide specific storage space for each chemical, and ensure return after each use. Store volatile toxins and odoriferous chemicals in ventilated cabinets, flammable liquids in approved flammable liquid storage cabinets, and small amounts of flammable liquids may be stored in an open room.
Keep chemicals in special refrigerators reserved for this purpose. Never store flammable liquids in a refrigerator unless it is specifically designed and approved for such storage.
3. Lay your lab notebooks away from workstations
Laboratory notebooks are a vital part of the scientific process and it's important to keep them safe from any damage that could befall them from spills, errant materials, or other mishaps, particularly if you're walking around your workspace or moving around. Spills, in particular, can damage a lab notebook's pages and render important notes undecipherable. Therefore, lab notebooks must be kept in a safe and secure location when not in use. This is particularly helpful if you have to leave your station and return to it, as you won't have to worry about losing track of the page you were writing on.
Keep your own scissors, labeling tape, paraffin, wipes, and marker pen close at hand in the lab. This way, you won't have to constantly move around the lab for these items, and you will be more likely to label objects correctly. Write your name on the labels, too!
4. Organize supplies based on how often you use them
School laboratories can be improved by organizing supplies based on usage. Keep racks and commonly used tubes easily accessible, either in the center back area of your bench or on the shelf directly in front of you. Confine miscellaneous items that you don’t use every day to the periphery of your central workspace or the shelves. Grouping these items by experiment type allows you to access them all at once when needed instead of rummaging through everything.
If you are performing a series of experiments, it is a good idea to store all your supplies and tools for a process or protocol together. One way to do this is by having them in one location, such as near the chemical supply with an analytical balance, weighing dishes, weighing boats, and lab scoops.
5. Label as much as possible
There is no such thing as "too many labels". Labels are an important part of lab safety and inventory management. Label everything in your lab so that you and the students know where everything goes. Once you have decided where your workstation's storage should be located, label the shelves and cupboards. Labels can be used in samples, solutions, equipment, on shelves, in fridges, or in freezers. Make sure your labels include as much detail as possible.
This should not stop here. If a procedure has multiple steps, arrange the equipment from left to right. You can even label each step or sub-step on the lab bench surface with label tape so everyone knows where all pieces of equipment stay.
6. Explore Vertical Space
When you have a laboratory with space constraints, counters can become disorganized and cluttered. It can get difficult to keep track of all the substances. The best solution is to optimize all your lab space so that you can see everything at a glance. In such cases, consider utilizing vertical space. Small labs with large equipment (centrifuges, HPLCs, and incubators) can use shelves, wall cabinets, or top-mounted cabinets instead of permanent storage racks.
Try to look if you are utilizing the full height available in the lab. For example, you could store bigger supplies under a table or bench. You can stack equipment on top of one another and hang multi-use shelves or hooks for lab coats on an open wall.
We believe that these ideas can go a long way in creating a more efficient and organized academic laboratory space. Whether you are just starting out or are looking to revamp your current lab, these suggestions should be able to help you reach your goals.