Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Materials Mayhem

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Materials Mayhem

Article excerpt

Imagine entering a new classroom and finding lab materials in complete disarray. Broken bits of metal and shards of glass mirrors are interspersed among live, unlabeled radioactive sources. Splintered metersticks and oily beakers lie amidst beads of a long-forgotten mercury spill that decorate the cabinet floor and walls. You are befuddled as you encounter chunks of wood and metal that you cannot figure out how to piece together. You worry about how to teach with such inadequate and archaic equipment.

The above scenario may not be uncommon to a new teacher--or a teacher at a new school or in a new discipline. As a first-year teacher, I was lucky: Before the retiring teacher I was replacing left, I inquired into the current resources. I asked about ordering materials and was fortunate enough to receive a sizeable budget for the fall--but this is not always the case for teachers. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to overcome this obstacle.

Get to know the teacher you are replacing, and the classroom in which you will be teaching. If possible, ask a science teacher for a tour of the classroom and storage spaces. Request keys or an appointment to visit before school starts to familiarize yourself with the existing materials.

Collaborate with fellow science teachers. Check with other science teachers in your building or district for basic supplies that may be lacking. While it is a good idea to purchase your own class set, borrowing temporarily can help a teacher survive before new materials are ordered.

Contact professional organizations and universities. Join your local National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) chapter and Listserv, and seek out other content-specific teaching organizations and local alliances--experienced teachers often have older, but functional, material that they are happy to give away as they update their own storage cabinets. University professors may also have access to special items of need, and might view it as an opportunity to recruit potential students.

Attend conferences and new teacher workshops. NSTA conferences offer lots of opportunities to get free materials--look for the many free giveaways and door prize drawings at commercial workshops and exhibit booths (see "On the web"). …

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