I remember sitting in on Steve Sogo’s presentation at a recent conference and watching the video that accompanied his talk. As I watched the video, I saw something that didn’t necessarily have to do with the talk but had caught my eye. I noticed that certain laboratory glassware and equipment that was being shown while interviewing his students had been marked with colored tape and numbers. When I asked Steve about my observation he confirmed my observation and mentioned that this was the way that he kept his glassware and equipment organized for each of his different lab groups. I thought what a great idea.
Fig. 1 - taken from Steve’s Youtube video: Benzoic Acid Lab
Now, I am sure I am not alone when I say it is frustrating when you have your students ready to start the lab and you have lab groups that are missing certain pieces of lab equipment from their lab drawers. When your time in lab is limited to the time you have in class, then every minute is important. So I decided to take the time and to do some needed inventory. I wanted to match equipment to its designated table. Next, I wanted to make sure that each of my eight lab tables had the proper equipment needed to eliminate no more missing equipment. Sure enough, as I began the inventory project, I had several tables missing equipment, so once everything was laid out and counted and organized then I had to make sure it was going to stay that way. I had several rolls of colored tape and it was easy to then begin marking each of the pieces of equipment and glassware with tape. Now a word of caution, don’t tape anything that will be directly heated. As an example, the clay triangle and the crucible should not be taped. However, the tops of beakers, graduated cylinders, and Erlenmeyer flasks, the bottom of Bunsen burners, and ring stands can all be marked. Next, I placed a small piece of tape around the center faucet to designate the matching equipment to that table. Also, I’m not concerned with the tape coming off as the equipment gets washed. Overall, it didn’t really take that much time to tape everything once it was all set out. On the plus side, by doing the inventory, I hope to move from four person lab groups to two person lab groups. With four person lab groups, I was starting to see an increase in observers and a decrease in workers which led me to wonder how much learning was taking place in the lab. This is just my attempt to trying to keep things better organized in my lab which in return will help with safety as less students will have to move around the lab searching for equipment. How do you keep your studnets laboratory equipment organized? If you have any other questions or further suggestions then please feel free to share. Thanks again to Steve Sogo for the idea.