Dyan Branstetter | December 2015

Get Organized with Shoebox Kits

I don’t know about you, but no matter how many minutes of planning time I have it is never enough. I always work to the last minute, and end up having to make a mad dash to pick up my students from their specialist. With every minute counting, and to save my sanity, I have “creatively borrowed” a trick one of my professors shared during a class on hands-on science. Shoebox kits!

Shoebox Kits?

This professor had noticed that when time was of the essence, teachers weren’t able to scramble around to gather all of the necessary materials to allow students to complete hands-on experiments. Without the materials easily on hand, teachers would skip over the hands-on portions of lessons/units, which resulted in students not receiving instruction that was best practice for science instruction. She solved this dilemma by recommending that teachers create a “shoebox kits” (a.k.a. a plastic shoebox), containing all of the materials needed for a science experiment, including handouts or data collecting sheets.

If a teacher can create a shoebox kits for each experiment throughout the year, all he or she has to do is pull out the correlating shoebox kits. After the lesson/experiment, simply refurbish the consumables, snap the lid on, and the shoebox is ready for the following year. If you prepare few extra kits on topics that extend your curriculum, you will then have a prepared experiment in case a lesson ends earlier than anticipated or for emergency substitute plans. I’ve seen this management technique for math stations or math games, too.

What Does It Have To Do With STEAM?

Why not take this shoebox kit idea and apply it to Arts Integration and STEAM? Sometimes we hesitate to do an art or music project because of the preparation or materials it requires. If we prepare and sort the supplies ahead of time, they are at our fingertips, ready to pull out, as well as being easy to clean up and pack away. This may not work for everything, for we certainly can’t box up supplies we use regularly.

For a STEAM lesson on chromatography, however, it works well. I stock my shoebox with coffee filters, black markers/pens, as well as my student instructions, recording sheet, and lesson plan. This way, when it’s time for the experiment, all I need is water. For an Arts Integrated project on Charles Demuth’s The Figure 5 In Gold, gold colored pencils are imperative. I pack them in my shoebox kit, along with my anchor samples of previously completed projects, paper, and my articles about Charles Demuth and The Figure 5 in Gold.

It may seem overly simple, but it certainly beats running around during my already packed planning time, scrambling to gather materials. And, if a lesson with materials is at-the-ready, I am able to focus all of my efforts on my students and my teaching objectives, not on finding my materials.  So, take advantage of the upcoming January sales and stock up on plastic shoeboxes!

About the Author

Dyan is a fifth grade teacher in a public school district in Lancaster, PA and has over 16 years of classroom experience. With a Masters of Science Education and a passion for dance and music, she strives to integrate the arts into the curriculum whenever possible. Dyan has a background in teaching advanced learners, and is devoted to using project based learning to help her students achieve 21st century learning skills and master the PA Core Standards.