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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science. Join the course to learn more.

The location of equipment

Science Lab Layout - Panoramic view - Described in text below

How you choose to distribute the equipment for a practical activity will have a big impact on how students move around the room.

The decision of where to place equipment for collection will be influenced by:

  • The size of the class and the size of the classroom.
  • Whether the class is mature and responsible enough to access equipment from cupboards.
  • If time is limited, provision of equipment on desks to minimise time wasted through movement and time off task.

In the two examples below, we show a plan of one of the teaching labs at the National STEM Learning Centre (see photo above, taken from the teaching bench with a wide lens).

The pods seat 6-8 students. Each pod has gas and electricity supplies for every student. There are advantages here for group working, but possible disadvantages where not all students will be facing the teacher. There are water supplies and sinks along two edges of the room.

Equipment is mainly stored in cupboards along the back wall.

Example 1

In the first example, students are responsible for collecting equipment from a designated place, such as from trays on the side bench (shown in yellow in the diagram below).

Plan of a lab showing student movement from benches to trays positioned against the side of one wall, where all equipment for the practical work is provided.

Example 2

In the second example, students have been provided with the equipment on their pods (shown as yellow boxes in the diagram below). This might be in the form of a tray containing everything required for an experiment, or a selection of equipment that students have to choose from.

Plan of a lab where practical equipment is prepared for students to use on their benches.

A PDF of the examples is provided under Downloads below to better see the labels on the images.


We’d like you to take the role of Tim, our practical science agony aunt (someone to provide advice to the problems science teachers encounter). We’ve had a letter and we’d like to hear your response in the comments at the bottom of this step.

How do I teach in this space?

Classroom tables for main seating in a lab space. Limited services at the back and side of the room.

Classroom desks arranged in two horse-shoe shapes. Services on fixed benches around room.

Dear Tim,

Please can you help me? I am about to start my new job in a secondary school, and this is the room I will be teaching in (pictured above). As you can see, it has classroom tables in the middle of the room, with limited gas, power and water supplies on benches along back and side walls. My first practical lesson will be on making salts, and so my students will need to use the Bunsen burners. How should I organise the room and the practical so that it runs smoothly?

Best wishes

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This article is from the free online course:

Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre