How to build STEM spaces while adhering to budget constraints

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The Challenge

Building a STEM space at your school can be a challenge, especially if you have budgetary constraints. There are many ways to create your STEM space without spending excessive amounts of money. In this article, we go over some strategies you can initiate to design an effective STEM space without having to build a new building or refurbish an existing one.

We’ve identified some of the key questions and provided you with some thought-provoking answers for your consideration.

Where should we create our STEM space?

Location of your STEM space will depend on your budgetary constraints. If you are very limited with money, a great area to consider is your library or an existing science or technology room.  A library is an area that has very much become digital over the last few years and the demand for hardcopy books has been substantially reduced. Look at relocating your library space to a small room or simply cut it back by 50-70%. These are often located in a central area and have all the attributes needed to make a great STEM space. An existing science lab is another great place to start, especially for a more serious STEM facility. However, science labs generally have fixed benching and other fixed furniture. You may need to allow for the removal of furniture which can add to the set-up costs.

How big should we make the space?

It is important to understand the curriculum prior to planning your space. What activities will be performed in the space? Have you considered different learning and collaboration styles in your space? Is there enough room for plenty of activities? How many students will be in the space at any one time?  It is a great idea to make sure you understand the maximum number of students proposed to use the STEM space, students need to be able to work individually as well as in a group. Is there enough space for all student to break out and find a suitable location to carry out their STEM lesson?

How complex should our STEM space be?

Simple is better. A simple flexible learning space will give a student more clarity and choice. Document necessities when planning your space such as tables, chairs and storage. Are tables in a shape that can allow students to work individually? Or in groups of two’s and three’s etc? Are your chairs simple and tough? Do you have sufficient storage for your space so there is a place for everything? It is a great idea to collaborate with a school that already has a STEM space and ask questions to find out what works and what doesn’t work.

How much is it going to cost?

Scope your project out in detail. It is a great idea to include key stakeholders in this planning. Google Sheets is a great spreadsheet to use for costing a project as it allows you to share the sheet with multiple people allowing everyone to work together in real-time! And best of all, it’s free! It is also important to get someone else to check your costings ensuring you have included everything and allowed enough budget. Additionally, always obtain multiple quotes to ensure you are getting the best value for money. Associate yourself with companies that specialize in STEM as they may have some suggestions that will help you with efficiencies.

Utilization of existing resources

Once you have your planning and list of essentials, ask yourself, is there anything you can salvage or reuse in the school to cut down on cost? Share your project with other team members, teachers, or technicians as they may know of some free internal resources that you could use. You never know what may come out of the woodwork when asking these questions.

Creative ideas for your space.

Consider the involvement of your students into the STEM space as this is the most creative resource that you have available. Although this may not always be possible, the involvement of students creates ownership and passion for the new space. If your students love the STEM space, it can take your lessons to a whole new level of learning. Draw some concepts of your proposed space and present to your management along with the costing spreadsheets. Make sure you go over the purpose and cost-saving exercises to assist with fast-forwarding the management approval of your proposed space.

Execute

Once you have approval to execute the plan, approach a specialist laboratory and/or an education fit out company (Modulab) to transform your ideas into reality!

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