Shelf Life


Fact. I have short art classes (45 minutes) and a lot of them in a day

Fact. I have no time between my classes

Fact. If kids do not help me with clean up (and by help I mean, DO most of it) there is no way I can be ready for my next class which is usually waiting at the door.

So…. When faced with the reality of these facts I have devised a system to make it as simple and easy as possible for my students to pass out and return needed supplies, all while keeping it organized and tidy.

Enter low open shelving:

1. Easy for kids to access because it’s lower to the ground

2. Bins that are already dived out for each table

3. Labeling on the back of the shelf using pictures, so students know where to put things back, even beginning readers.

You may ask why I don’t just keep these items in one large bin on the table. (Some of my colleagues do this) I like to keep only the exact supplies the students need on the table at any given time. This prevents them from messing with supplies that are not needed or useful to them at the time.  Plus, since my room and tables are small (with a growing district with huge class sizes) There simply isn’t room on the tables for excess supplies.

As you may have noticed, these shelves only store the most used art supplies, not any speciality items for a particular project. I keep those items in another spot that I will show you later in the week, as well as how I determine WHO in the art room helps me each day.

How do you store the supplies you use every day in the art room? Do share!

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Hi Jessica…
    Just recently found your site through NAEA. Great stuff… you’ve been giving me a lot to think about for the upcoming school year.

    I have the same situation in my art room… one class after another with very little prep time. I spend a lot of effort on cleanup instruction at the beginning of the year, and our supplies are kept very orderly in a cubby system. I have 4 table groups with their own color assignment. My cubby tubs are color coordinated, and all supplies are doled out in to each color group. So, each table group uses the tubs of their table color.

    This system helps for many reasons…

    – If supplies are missing or aren’t put back properly then I know which table group needs to finish.

    – Each group knows which supplies are theirs to use and take care of.

    – The cubby storage unit is easy to organize, and all supplies have their own labeled shelves.

    As well, each table group has their own assigned colored sink where they clean their supplies.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas =)

    American School of Dubai

  • Pingback: Desk Drawer Featured! « The ART of Education()

  • Pingback: Never Stress During Clay Again! « The Art of Education()

  • Pingback: A Year Ago…Get Organized! « The Art of Education()

  • Pingback: Picture This: Labeling Supplies « The Art of Education()

  • Pingback: How Do you Glue? « The Art of Education()

  • Nylah


    I absolutely love the idea of placing pictures at the back of the shelf for an easy clean up.  You have left no room for confusion!

    • It works like a charm, too. Kept the system for 3 years and never changed it!

  • Trey Starnes

    I think you hit it right on the money. Last year, I also used bins that had pencils, erasers, rulers, and sharpeners in them. I lost more supplies that I can even count with this method. This year, I have adopted the shelf system similar to yours. I have also assigned students each week to be “shelf inspectors.”

  • Pingback: 5 Amazing Organizing Ideas for the Art Room | The Art of Ed()

  • Pingback: Picture This: Labeling Supplies | The Art of Ed()

  • Pingback: How Do you Glue? | The Art of Ed()