Sunday, August 1, 2010

Preparing Your Hands-On Classroom

Are you excited?  Are you ready?  Only one month left!  For many of us school will begin in September and we use this month of August to prepare ourselves by lesson planning, organizing and purchasing supplies.  Due to some renovations we are making, I had the pleasure of getting started a bit early.  Our playroom/schoolroom has been changed into an office/schoolroom.  All the toys have been moved to the basement and my entire office has been squeezed into a corner of the now schoolroom. I've organized most of our school supplies so I thought it would be a great time to share with you what we use and how I've managed to store it all in a small space.

Our math bucket now has a proper shelf alongside a few smaller hands-on buckets.  Here we keep our pattern blocks, peg board and pegs and soft math puzzles.  This will probably be our last year with the soft math puzzles.  I think my youngest is done with them but I didn't have the heart to get rid of them yet.  I might find a few more ways to incorporate them at the next level.

In our large math bucket I keep a few living math books, wrap-ups, flashcards, big dice, small dice, math games, base ten blocks, a stopwatch, compass and protractor, and assorted math manipulatives like play money, fraction circles and measurement rings put out by Learning Resources.  Each year I've tried to add new items to this bucket.  I don't have anything new this year but I do have a couple games in the basement that I think I'll move up to this shelf. One in particular, Money Money will be helpful to my youngest daughter.

Although the contents of the bucket are used pretty regularly during lessons, I try to make sure the kids have a once a week time slot to just go digging through that bucket for free exploration.  Last year my 7yo son almost always chose the pattern blocks or the pizza fraction game while my daughter pulled out the cash register.

The remaining hands-on supplies are stored in or on top of our craft cabinet.  These kind of supplies can be messy so I like to keep them in a cabinet with doors!  You would not believe how much stuff you can fit into one of these cabinets from Wal-Mart.  This isn't the little one that you see at the store.  Although I did buy this a the store many years ago, it's harder to find now and can more often be found online.  It measures 72"H x 30"W x 15"D.  On top of the cabinet, which you can't see here in this picture, I keep our microscope and our science bucket filled with beakers, test tubes, magnets, disection kit, small science experiment kits, PH test kits, slides, owl pellets, thermometers and more.
I'm not sure I can list everything that's inside the cabinet nor do I think you want to read an exhaustive list but I can tell you some of the more interesting or important items I like to keep on hand or at least the things you can't see as clearly in the photo.

On the top shelf I usually store recycled items from my kitchen like bottles, small paper bags, styrofoam and tubes from the plastic wrap.  The tube inside the Stretch Tite box is awesome for crafts and much firmer than the paper towel tube or the tin foil tube.  (And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it is by far THE best plastic wrap on the market.)  Before I throw away or give away any decorating item I always consider whether my kids could use it in a project first.  Artificial flowers and greenery come in very handy in dioramas and bringing to life an academic fair project, wall paper samples make nice book covers on home made books and old candles can be melted down and recreated.

Going down the shelves on the right side I keep old tablecloths, smocks and protective materials.  I use those $1 pencil boxes to keep small items like crayons, markers, small kits and OH pencils of course. Klutz kits, drawing pads and craft and artist books are kept on the next shelf while the bottom shelf holds buckets and cookie cans of buttons, tissue paper, spools of thread and feathers.  Doesn't everyone need a bucket of feathers in case of emergencies?

The top two shelves on the left are comprised of paint supplies including sponges, fabric paint, stencils and an assortment of different types of paint of course.  Nothing exciting there but we couldn't do school without it.  Now the second shelf up on the left is an interesting one to me.  It seems like everything on this shelf has an odd name.  Here we have Plox, chenille stems in assorted colors and levels of fuzziness, Floam, and Wikki Stix.  On the bottom left shelf I keep beads, tongue depressors and shredded paper and tinsel type stuff which was very useful in last year's dioramas too.

I love buckets with lids for storage.  You can put all different odds and ends inside them and stack them up.  Whenever I get rid of something from a bucket it almost immediately finds a new use in my home.  If you came for a visit you would surely find more buckets and kits and games either in the school room or down in the basement but I think this has been a good start.  And if you are hands-on challenged, I hope you have collected a few ideas here.  Or perhaps if nothing else, I've just reminded you that you need to hurry and buy some glue and crayons now while the stores are practically giving it away.


Kris said...

It is shaping up nicely, and I hope it is as functional come the fall. I love storage bins, too, of all shapes and sizes, sitting on shelves and in cabinets.

The only problem is stuff in the back of the cabinet gets used less. Maybe I can find a bin that the same depth as the shelf so I can put them with the short side facing out; that way nothing is behind anything.

School prep is so much fun because it brings the promise of another school year with all the potential therein.

Jimmie said...

The new blog looks nice. Girly pink! :-) Like that.

I love getting organized. Staying that way is always a challenge, of course.