Managing Kits for Hands-on Science
Why is hands-on science worth the trouble?
Hands-on science is not a passive experience, either for students or teachers. For students, it involves thinking, doing, and re-thinking. For teachers it involves an exciting round of planning, pleasant surprises at the original work the children in your class can do, and stimulating collaborations as you and your students discuss what their explorations mean.
What materials will my class need?
The materials needed to complete each Science Companion module are broken down into two groups:
- ExploraGear. This is a science kit which can be purchased with each module. It contains equipment and consumables for student explorations. However, it does not contain everything your class will need. It focuses on items which would be expensive to provide or hard to find, have specific qualities needed for the module, or get heavy and repeated use.
- Classroom Supplies. These are other items that will be needed. They tend to be classroom items (such as markers, scissors, etc.), perishable items (such as an apple or a cup of milk), or things that can be found in a home or playground (such as a container of salt or branch from a tree).
Do I have to come up with all the Classroom Supplies myself?
No. If your school or district does not already have a system in place for distributing materials to your classroom, here are some steps for getting Classroom Supplies together:
- Before starting a module, read the Classroom Supplies list at the end of each Teacher Lesson Manual.
- Determine which items you already have in your classroom, such as markers, tape, construction paper, base-10 blocks, etc.
- Review the “optional” items to see whether they would be easy or difficult to provide. These items truly are optional, so feel free not to use them at all.
- Determine the items you think it would be appropriate for parents to provide. Solicit these via a letter home, by asking at parent night, or by other means such as detachable leaves on a class “giving tree.”
- Give a list of the remaining items to the Science Supplies Coordinator, so they can be collected before you need them in class.
Appointing a Science Supplies Coordinator (for a classroom or school)
To get science supplies into your classroom on time, appoint a coordinator for your school or classroom. This can be an interested teacher, administrator, or parent volunteer. Make sure the Science Supplies Coordinator receives funds from the school or district to buy any supplies needed.
The Science Supplies Coordinator should:
- Store the ExploraGear for each module.
- Collect and organize appropriate Classroom Supplies for each module.
- Schedule and coordinate sharing ExploraGear and appropriate Classroom Supplies between classrooms.
- Restock consumed, lost, or broken items.
If your district has a science materials center, some of these responsibilities will be taken care of more centrally, for the whole district.
Sharing ExploraGear between classrooms
If classrooms in your school or district are not conducting science modules simultaneously, most ExploraGear kits can be used in different classrooms over the course of a year. Consider these factors:
- Four of the Science Companion modules are year-long units. This means they rely on observations conducted throughout the year in different seasons. For these modules, each classroom should have its own set of materials. These modules are: Weather(Level 1), Collecting and Examining Life (Level 1), Life Cycles (Level 2), and Our Solar System (Level 3).
- For modules where classrooms will share ExploraGear kits and other materials, the Science Supplies Coordinator or science materials center will need to replace items that are consumed.
Managing science materials for a district
To coordinate science materials for all the classrooms in a district, the district should establish a science materials center. To learn more, see:
Peters, Tom (2004). Is a Materials Resource Center Right for You? Science and Children (41:9) Retrieved on 9/28/06 from
The web site for the Association of Science Materials Centers (ASMC) advertises upcoming events and publishes a list of member centers. To see how other districts manage the collection, storage, and distribution of science materials, you can access some of the materials centers’ web sites from the ASMC member list. See www.kitsupport.org.
For more information
For tips about managing materials for specific Science Companion modules, click here. Tips and strategies for the Energy and Earth’s Changing Surface modules (both Level 5) are particularly helpful.
Schiller, E., Joseph, J., & Konecki, L. (2004). A Handle on Hands-On. Science and Children (41:9).Retrieved on 9/28/06 from
(available only to NSTA members)
Haury, David L. and Rillero, Peter (1994). Perspectives of Hands-On Science Teaching. Retrieved on 9/28/06 fromhttp://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/content/cntareas/science/eric/eric-10.htm
National Science Resources Center. (1997) Science for All Children: A Guide to Improving Elementary Science Education in Your School District. National Academies Press. (See pages 89-99 for information on establishing a science materials support center.)