In my Facebook community for middle school science teachers, I’ve noticed numerous discussions all centered around one central topic: what items should a science teacher have for their classroom? As I’ve participated in the discussions and offered a few thoughts of my own, it’s gotten me really thinking about which classroom supplies I consider to be absolutely “essential.” Whether you are going shopping for your own supplies, requesting school supplies from the administration or putting together an Amazon wishlist, here are my must have items for middle school science classrooms!
STEM Activity Supplies
STEM activities are the bread and butter of science classrooms. These hands on science activities give students the chance to explore, experiment, and think critically, Not to mention, STEM activities and science labs are so much fun! SO, what kind of science supplies will you need for your STEM activities? While each individual activity will have it’s own supply list, there are a few staple items I like to keep on hand.
- Popsicle sticks
- Glue Stick (LOTS and LOTS of glue sticks)
- Duct Tape
- Food coloring
- Aluminum foil
- Toilet paper/Paper towel tubes
- Cotton balls
- Construction paper
These supplies can be acquired in a variety of ways. A trip to the dollar store is an easy way to grab a bunch of classroom essential items. You may also consider having your students collect items from their homes. (Things like toilet paper rolls, grocery bags, empty plastic water bottles, etc.) You could offer a participation grade for students who bring in household items or hold a competition between class periods, offering an incentive for the class who brings in the greatest number of STEM supplies.
Interactive Science Notebooks
I am a huge fan of using interactive student notebooks with my middle school students! We use these notebooks to hold important documents and notes that students take throughout each class unit. To learn the in’s and out’s of how I use interactive student notebooks within my middle school science classroom, check out this blog post! When it comes to establishing interactive notebooks practice with your science students, there are a few supplies you and your students will need.
Interactive Notebook Supplies
- Composition books or binders (one for each individual student)
- A class set of scissors
- A class set of glue sticks
- Colored pencils or crayons (avoid markers – they don’t last and tend to bleed)
You may choose to have students keep a set of supplies (glue, scissors, colored pencils) for their own personal use, or you may find it easier to collect all supplies at the beginning of the school year to be used collectively by all students.
Let’s establish an essential truth that applies to students of all ages: Students are messy! There, I said it! Throw in science experiments or lab and your classroom can become an absolute mess in a short period of time. Relying solely on custodians to keep a middle school science classroom clean just simply won’t cut it. Having a stash of your own classroom cleaning supplies are must haves for the middle school science teacher!
My Classroom Cleaning Essentials:
- Broom and dustpan
- Hand sanitizer
- Clorox wet wipes
- Handheld vacuum
General Items – For Teacher Use
What about those miscellaneous items that just come in handy? Don’t worry, I’ve got a list of those for you too! To run an efficient and organized science classroom, there are a few supplies that make the life of you as a teacher just a little bit easier. (Now doesn’t THAT sound appealing?!) Here are my top must have items for middle school science classrooms – teacher edition!
Teacher Must Have’s:
- Expo markers (all sizes and colors)
- Flair pens (for easy grading)
- Binder clips
- Your own personal laminator or laminating sheets (used for task cards, bulletin boards, word walls, etc.)
- Binder clips
- Wireless doorbell (one of my favorite classroom management tips!!)
- Teacher planner (for lesson planning)
- Paper clips
- Staple remover
- Sticky notes
Remember, these are supplies intended for teacher use. I recommend keeping them in a safe cabinet or drawer away from students hands. As we all know, supplies shared with students just won’t be the same after middle school use. It’s okay to set aside a stash of school supplies just for you!
General Items – For Student Use
Alright, let’s talk student supplies! These are the items you students will need and use on a regular basis within your science classroom. Having access to these supplies can make day to day life within your classroom easier and smoother for everyone. Here are my top must have items for middle school science classrooms – student style!
- Cap erasers
- Colored pencils
- Heavy duty pencil sharpener
- Paper clips
- Dry erase markers
- Class set of whiteboards
- Class set of meter sticks
- Class set of clip boards
- Black light flashlights (for escape rooms – if you choose to do them)
- Extra power strips (if it’s a technology 1:1 campus)
- Classroom games (for free time, reward days, or recess)
You’ve probably noticed that some of the items on this student list are repeated from the teacher supply list. This was intentional. Remember: it’s okay for you to set aside supplies just for YOU. Having a “teacher set” and a “student set” of things like dry erase markers is always a good idea.
It wouldn’t be a science class without supplies for labs, demonstrations, and experiments! When it comes to purchasing lab equipment, there are a few items I’d put on my essentials list:
Essential Lab Equipment:
Teacher set of:
- Beakers (400ml, 1000mL)
- Erlenmeyer flasks (200ml, 600ml, 1000ml)
Class sets of:
- Cafeteria trays to set up labs on
- Beakers 100mL and 250mL
- Graduated cylinders (plastic)
- Test tubes & racks (I average 2 kids over rack, so 15 & 5 tubes per rack)
- Petri dishes
- Glass slides & cover slips
Depending on the specific science discipline you teach, you may have additional items that go on your annual equipment list. For example, biology teachers may require dissection kits and physical science teachers may find electric circuit kits helpful.
All students enjoy the occasional reward for a job well done! Whether these rewards are offered spontaneously or are an incentive your students work to achieve, it’s a good idea to have a few prizes or treats on hand. Here are a few of my go-to “prize box” options:
- Jolly Ranchers (or other types of hard candy)
- Individual chip bags
- Fun pens or pencils
- Dollar store toys (ex: Rubix cubes, decks of cards, mini board games etc.)
- Locker magnets
I like to pull these rewards out when students are doing a great job following directions! They also make a good prize for in class review games.
Books Every Science Teacher Needs
To close out this list of teacher essentials, I want to throw out a few my favorite professional development books. These texts have been a life line for me in teaching middle school science! They truly are incredible resources packed with good ideas! Here are two of my favorites:
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