NSTA Guide to Planning School Science Facilities, 2nd Edition
by LaMoine L. Motz, James T. Biehle, and Sandra West

Price at time of review: $39.95
148 pp.
NSTA Press
Arlington, VA
ISBN: 9781933531083

Grade Level: K-12

Reviewed by Martha Svatek
Retired Science Teacher

Everything you need to design cutting-edge science facilities is provided in the second edition of NSTA’S Guide to Planning School Science Facilities. In accordance with the National Science Education Standards, suggestions for the development of quality science facilities are provided. One of these recommendations is first to complete a curriculum review because curriculum should shape the science facility. Everyone involved in the planning process must identify what is envisioned for new facilities and then remain involved in the design and construction phases.

Each chapter begins with a “Key Ideas” summary. Chapter 1 discusses how to plan school science facilities. This is followed by steps in the design and building of the new facility. Chapter 2 covers “Current Trends and Future Directions in Science Education.”  Most importantly, the planner needs to have a vision of the future (when technological changes are expected). Safety guidelines are highlighted in Chapter 3. The importance of providing safe space for each student, safe storage of chemicals, ventilation, fume hoods, and minimizing litigation are topics covered. Chapter 4 focuses on “Designing Facilities for the Elementary School.” We found this section invaluable as we planned our school’s new labs. From space requirements, number of sinks needed, storage options, and providing utilities, to lighting and darkening rooms, many valuable suggestions are provided. Needs for grades K-2 and grades 3-5 are presented. Chapters 5 and 6 discuss designing facilities for the middle school (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12), and they provide two popular models for science classrooms (moveable lab stations and fixed lab stations). The need for providing computers and other technology is important in the middle school and high school labs. Ideas for teacher space, preparation and storage rooms, student project areas, and small group spaces are included.

“Green Schools” is a new chapter in this edition. Key ideas include accessing natural areas surrounding the school, and using outside spaces such as courtyards, ponds, and rain gardens for teaching. Photos provide several useful ideas from installing a large weather-safe compass and sundial to having an imbedded solar system model in a courtyard. Chapter 8 has further suggestions for using science spaces to enhance teaching, such as sliding shades that double as bulletin boards, two-way windows that enable students to share projects with the hallway, and using patterns on the floor and ceiling as learning spaces. Chapter 9, entitled “Science for All,” provides the ADA guidelines. The ADA checklist is invaluable for planning.

The appendix  includes checklists for safety; critical dimensions; equipment; check lists for elementary, middle school, and high school labs; a glossary of construction terms; the NSTA position statement on the role of lab investigations in science instruction; and a useful bibliography. Throughout the book, there are many photographs, floor plans, and check lists. Teachers, science specialists, school board members, architects, and all involved with the planning, designing, and building of exemplary science facilities will benefit from this invaluable resource. Indeed, our school has three excellent science labs because we followed the guidelines in the first edition.

Review posted on 10/31/2007

Customer Reviews
Well done!
  Reviewed by: Amy R (, ) on July 14, 2008
  This is certainly a helpful resource in planning school science facilties. It was great having ADA requirements and gave some excellent guidelines for planning in an area that is often difficult.

A comprehensive resource
  Reviewed by: Cyndi (Cincinnati, OH) on November 12, 2007
  This guide covers a large amount of information pertaining to the design of a science classroom. It is a viable resource that touches on every subject imaginable. I especially appreciated the inclusion of subjects such as: safety, ada guidelines ('Science for all') and green school buildings. As the US progresses further with their adaptation of green practices, I suspect future editions of this planning guide will address this issue with even more comprehension.

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