Krista Ferguson- Furnishings and Ergonomics/Room Layout
Stacey Johnson- Lighting and Audio Visual
Eric Smith- Computing Tech and Ergonomics/Room Layout

Science Laboratory Classroom


An old lab
Current dialogue about educational reform is ripe with arguments for the need to develop critical twenty-first century learning skills in our students. It is essential that today’s learners not only develop foundational skills and knowledge, but that they are also able to adapt, collaborate, and create in a global network that becomes increasingly complex at a swift pace. There is perhaps no area that has changed more rapidly than in the fields of science and technology. It goes without saying, then, that a great science class today is vastly different than what it would have been 50, 25, or even 10 years ago.
And yet, our students continue to attend science classes in antiquated laboratories, designed to meet the needs of an era that has long since passed away. Overcrowding, outdated equipment, poor lighting, and a lack of functional workspace are common problems.

Our mission is to design a new science lab for High School X that provides an optimal space for our students to experience hands-on constructivist learning, and which can function effectively across science disciplines. Today’s learners need flexible spaces that can efficiently incorporate hands-on technological tools into various learning modalities. They need to be able to collaborate within the classroom. The arrangements need to be flexible to accommodate a variety of groupings. Because high school science labs function as classrooms as well as laboratories, students can benefit from a learning area that is separate from the hands-on lab area. Our new lab will provide these separate spaces while maximizing the effectiveness of each with appropriate learning tools.
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Needs Assessment

Expressed Needs/ Concerns
Safety for students
Can accomodate all levels and fields of science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science, etc)
Energy efficient
Water efficient
Safety for the students
Safe storage of chemicals inside of the classroom
Needs counter space for setup of laboratory and demonstration materials
Mobile and modular to meet the demands of group work and teamed activities
Technology needs to be mobile and have the ability to meet the needs of the students and grow.
Easily move about the classroom when labs are taking place
Ability to see and hear the instruction from any part of the classroom or laboratory area
Risk Management
Meet OSHA standards for safety.
Building must meet ADA (Americans w/ Disabilities Act) guidelines and Accessibility Building code
Chemical showers
Fume hoods
Chairs can be moved to allow for easy cleaning
The number one priority of any science classroom is safety of the student and the teacher in the classroom. The most important aspect is to create a learning environment which has enough space to accomodate a large number of students safely with the ability to move about the classroom with ease and visibility for the instructor.
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Ergonomics/Room Layout

The room is designed to have two different areas: the classroom/instruction area where students will sit at tables that can easily be moved when need and the laboratory/workstation area where students will conduct laboratory exercises.

  • All of the seating is designed ergonomically to provide support and comfort and to also allow the student to view any part of the room without strain.
  • Whiteboards are located in both the front and the back of the classroom.
  • The perimeter of the room will contain upper and lower cabinetry, fume hoods and additional sinks.

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Desks/Laboratory Workstations

This classroom is being designed to have a separate areas for instruction/lecture and laboratory exercises. Two different sets of desks and laboratory work stations will be necessary. All table surfaces will have a 1" solid epoxy resin top, which is impervious to normal laboratory chemicals and heat. This surface is designed to be extremely durable and easy to clean.

Instruction/Lecture area

  • Desks come in four different width sizes: 4', 5', 54" and 6'. Each table can be raised from a height of 27" to 39" inches, in 1 inch increments.
  • Each table can be raised from a height of 27" to 39" in 1 inch increments.
  • One side of the table can be elevated
  • ADA compliant

Student Workstation


Mobile Demonstration Table/Workstation for the Instructor

  • Mobile demo table can be moved around the class
  • Contains electrical outlets and water supply

Instructor's desk



Student seating

In the classroom section of the room, it is important to have seating that allows students to be comfortable, be able to have ease of mobility and also that offers under seat storage to help keep backpacks and other belongings off the floor. The Node chair from Steelcase will be used, as it provides all of these options, as well as being durable. For the laboratory workstations, seating needs to also be resistant to chemicals that may be spilled. The N-dustrial Geo Urethane stool is adjustable, ergonimcally designed, as well as oil and chemical resistant.

Classroom Chair
Work Station Chair

Teacher seating

Although teachers typically spend a lot of time out of their chair during class, it's still important that comfortable seating be provided for them as well. An office chair that is ergonimcally designed will be used for teacher seating. The user can adjust the height and the back.


An all hard surface flooring option is necessary in a science lab. The flooring will need to be extremely durable and nothing that will easily disguise spills. We will use a vinyl flooring that is able to withstand chemical and water spills in addition to being made for high traffic areas. In order to move away from the more traditional hard floors that are prevalent in the education sector, another option is vinyl that is made to look like wood floor. This brings a warmth to the room and still covers the needs of the room.
  • Manufactured byPolyflor
  • Heterogeneous vinyl sheets
  • Resistant to chemicals
  • Reduces sound
  • Slip and abrasion resistant
  • Able to have underfloor heating

Paint Color

Three of the walls will be a light yellow color, with the fourth wall being painted a deeper shade of a complementary color such as burgundy. The fourth wall will be the wall the students face during the majority of classroom instruction. Research has shown that students respond positively to yellow, and having the fourth wall a different and deeper color will help with focus.

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Lighting/Audio Visual


Laboratory work requires visual acuity. The lighting has a direct impact on student performance. In addition, because of the size of our science lab, and the multiplicity of uses, it is important to consider how we could maximize efficiency as well as efficacy in our lighting selections. We wanted to maximize ambient light for two reasons. First, because this is the most efficient use of light energy. As a high school lab, our facility will be in operation during daylight hours almost exclusively. Proper design and placement of south-facing windows will maximize daylight. The second advantage to this is that, unlike florescent lighting, natural light provides the best means for observing true colors. Obviously, this capacity is critical for students who are examining specimens in the lab.

Our facility will include large south-facing windows to maximize daylight. These windows will open outward at the top to provide ventilation, and they will also be equipped with insulated shades to control light, noise and temperature. When using natural light in a lab setting, it is essential to be able to control brightness. The high performance window shades will provide this control while also reducing outside noise and controlling temperature for maximum energy efficiency.

While we intend to use electric light only as a supplement to natural light, we have carefully designed our electric lighting system for optimal learning conditions and maximum efficiency. Our lab will be equipped with a direct-indirect lighting system. In this setup, some light is directed upwards (indirect) and some is directed downwards (direct). This maximizes the benefits and minimizes the negatives of direct and indirect light. For example indirect lighting reduces shadows but can also make things appear dull. Direct fixtures provide maximum illumination but may also cause glare. The pictures below depict direct-indirect lighting systems, which can work with and without a finished ceiling.


In designing our lighting system, we referred to the guidelines provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for electric lighting in science labs. In order to maximize efficiency, the lighting system will employ daylight-based dimming systems, and a sweep-off lighting schedule with manual overrides. While this feature would be unfeasible and dangerous in most laboratory setups, it is appropriate for high school labs which operate on a predictable schedule. The ceiling will be a white matte finish, which reflects light without reflecting images or colors as readily as a semigloss finish does. Some laboratory workstations will be outfitted with task lamps for specific tasks. These will be lamps with a high color-rendering index, or CRI (CRI: a measurement used for lightbulbs to judge the accuracy of perceived color under artificial light on a scale of 1-100). While uniformity is important, it can create a dull appearance. In order to combat this, our lab will have several wall sconces throughout the room.

Our lab is designed to encourage student teams to collaborate. In standard classrooms and offices, carpets and room dividers are often used to provide a sound buffer that is ideal for such practices. These usual means of noise control were note useful for our purposes. In order for the teacher to be able to effectively monitor the class, the design of our lab remains open; lab stations throughout the room are easily accessible by the teacher at all times. Because students will be working with liquid chemicals, carpet is out of the question. The primary source of noise control will be through the selection of flooring materials and window blinds. We are using vinyl flooring with padding, which will be easy to maintain while also absorbing sound. The high quality insulated shade blinds that we've selected to control light and temperature, also reduce outside noise by 35%.

Audio Visual
Interactive whiteboards an essential tool in modern laboratory classrooms. We prefer Promethean's Active Board + 2 Range because it is a self-contained display system that can be moved as needed. In this way it accommodates our driving principle of flexible space. Because the projector is mounted directly into the board, shadows are minimized. The unit can be adjusted for height. The 95" widescreen unit provides high visibility in a large area. The unit comes with integrated speakers.

In the lab setting, some of the displays will be live specimens, including flora, fauna, and even student projects Our lab will be equipped with a Promethean ActiView device to allow these items to be easily viewed by all students throughout a large room.


A constructivist learning model demands that learner response be integrated into the process. Our display system will incorporate student responses using Promethean's ActivExpression handheld devices for students. Our classroom is designed to accommodate 32 students, so 16 of these devices will be sufficient means for polling partner teams. These tools will allow students to respond throughout the lesson, to various types of questions. Text capability allows for sentence responses as well as symbols, numbers, equations, and Likert scales. Quizzes can be differentiated with the Self-Paced learning feature, and students can control their learning experiences by progressing at their own pace, in accordance with their own ability levels.


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Computing Technology

The task of creating a technology rich environment is difficult because of the two different classroom areas, the collaborative classroom and the laboratory. Therefore it was necessary to use computers which are mobile rather than have a set of two computers in the classroom. The whole classroom as a unit would need to be wireless and to allow a fast enough streaming of data it will need to be at least a G or N rated access point. Many companies offer secure systems for wirelsss access points to existing infrastructure. With the use of a wireless network, students will be able to move the laptops from one area of the classroom to another without having to worry about any type of wires. This will increase the mobility and use of the computers in the long term.

Laboratory Technology (Computer Units)

In order to meet the needs of the 21st century students will be using Vernier LabQuests to collect experiemental data. These rugged handheld devices can be used as stand alone devices to collect many different types of data with interchangable probes. The LabQuest are portable with a rechargable battery and touch screen for ease of use. The LabQuest has a very good ability to analyze the data through its own operating system however the device can be connected to a computer for more analysis techniques and give a larger screen for easier viewing for students with visual impairments


Laptop Computer for Mobility

Since the LabQuests can be connected to a computer, portablility is important because of the two sections of the science classroom. Therefore a Windows based laptop made by Compaq (CQ60-615DX) would be the best choice for a computer. This computer offers the ability to connect wirelessly to the Internet and has a four hour battary life. The ratio of computers to students will be one computer for every two stdents.

In order to store the laptops securely and safely while they are charging a mobile computer storage labtop cart by Bretford Manufacturing would be included in the classroom. The laptop cart can hold as may as 18 laptops and offers the ability to charge alll of the laptops simultaneously. The cart is on wheels which makes it ideal for moving from one area of the classroom to the other to give more space or removal from the classroom for added space.

Apple Workstation for maximum computing power for dual operating sytems

The teacher computer station must be the most versitile system to meet the demands of an ever changing technology era. The best computer would be the 27" Apple Workstation because the Mac OSX Snow Leopard has the ability to run multiple operating systems. To assist the use of multiple operating systems, Parallels will be installed on the Mac Workstation to allow two operating systems to run simultaneously. In order to monitor the student computers in the classroom a software programs such as Syncroneyes will allow the teacer to take over all the computers to gain the attention of students.
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Floor Plan


Highlights of the Science Laboratory Classroom

  • Approximately 1500 sqaure feet to accomodate 32 students

  • Room is divided into a collaborative classroom and laboratory classroom

  • Around the perimeter of the classroom are both upper and lower cabinetry

  • Two fume hoods are located on opposite sides of the laboratory section

  • Each laboratory station has two sinks, with four additional sink located on the perimeter

  • Both the collaborative classroom and laboratory classroom have Promethean Interactive Whiteboads.
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This design for a science laboratory is the most ideal situation for any science teacher. The science classroom must be versatile to meet the demand of possibly teaching all four core areas of science which include: Biology, Chemistry, Physics and the Geosciences. Krista and Eric are both science teachers and their background as subject matter experts allowed the basis for each item chosen for the room and the layout.

Ergonomics and Layout

According to the National Science Education Standards and the National Science Teachers Association, the science classroom must focus on inquiry education through the constructivist model of learning. In order to accomplish inquiry education, the science classroom has been split ino two main areas, the laboratory and the collaboration/instruction area. The laboratory area has
Design area
Ergonomics and Layout
Laboratory Area
Student working in groups of four to construct their knowledge of science through experimentation.
This also incorporates the idea of a Learner-Centered environment (Bransford, et al.)
Ergonomics and Layout
Laboratory Area is not specific to a single science: it supports Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Science
Science classrooms should facilitate integration across disciplines
(National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities )
Ergonomics and Layout
Collaboration/Instruction Area
Creates a flexible learning area for group work and instruction with tables and chairs which easily move into different configurations.
Computing Technologies
Labquests Handheld Computer Devices
Increase flexibility of locations for laboratory experimentation and creates a Learner Centered environment. (Bransford, et al.)
Computing Technologies
Laptop Computers (Windows based)
Gives the students a chance to use 21st Century technology skills in the classroom to further the Learning Centered environment. (Bransford, et al.)
Computing Technologies
Teacher Workstation with connection to Promethean Board
The teacher will be able to increase interactivity within the classroom to make it a Knowledge Centered environment for learning. (Bransford, et al.)
Lab includes fume hoods, chemical shower (with drain), chemical storage closet, prep room, supply room, and lab stations with sinks and burners.
School labs must comply with established safety standards
Vinyl flooring with padding and high quality insulating shades
Flooring absorbs noise within classroom while still being spill-proof. Shades reduce outside noise by 35%.
Audio/ Visual
System includes free-standing, self-contained Promethean board with integrated sound system
Provides mobile flexible display system for teacher and learners. Will be paired with ActivExpression student polling devices that facilitate differentiated assessments. Student responses can be displayed on interactive whiteboard.
Promethean ActiView device
Promotes collaborative hands-on learning by projecting images of real specimens and student projects on whiteboard.
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These are some possible assessment questions to ask about the science laboratory classroom:
  • Is the classroom easy to move about during laboratory or collaborative events?
  • Do the students feel safe in the classroom during laboratory events?
  • Does the teacher feel there is a way to monitor all students in the classroom?
  • Does the classroom create an atmosphere of learning through collaboration?
  • Is the classroom able to meet the needs as a Learning Centered environment?
  • Is the classroom able to meet the needs as a Knowledge Centered environment?
Thes questions can be answered through surveys, observations by colleagues, and examination of formative and summative assessments.

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Here is a link to a resource for assessing a classroom

Here is a link to our presentation on Google Docs.

Specific to science facilities: School Science Facility Planner.
(Public Schools of North Carolina, School Planning Section, Raleigh , May 2008)
"Details North Carolina's recommendations for science facility design that will accommodate the state curriculum. The document addresses design for classrooms, laboratories, teacher work stations, storage areas, outdoor spaces, shared spaces, safety, and ADA guidelines. Program facilities for the various grade levels are included, as are checklists for elementary, middle, and high school facilities. Additional resources and regulatory references are also cited."

Here are some other resources I found over the Internet which might prove useful

Scope: Programming and design of interior renovation for a flexible science lab/ classroom for ninth grade science.
*Winner, 2001 Impact on Learning Awards, Specialized Learning Environments category, sponsored by School Planning & Management magazine and the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International (
The scope of the project was the construction of a two-story (8) science lab/classroom building including rooms for teacher planning, storage, small conference room, elevator, and staff and group restrooms. The science lab/classrooms are slightly less than 1,600 sf each. The labs on the second floor only were provided with fume hoods. This building added 200 student stations. (
Flinn resources for science laboratory classrooms; great floor plans with potential for rearrangement (
Pictures of different types of lab environment for a number of schools (

Standards for building a science lab (this is according to the state of Texas) (
A rough description of
how you plan to assess the effectiveness of the space.

See article on main page: assess the effectiveness of learning spaces.

A link to your accompanying electronic presentation** “pitch.”