Science teachers have a boatload of materials, supplies, and equipment to distribute, pick up, and clean. Teachers with multiple classes have to do this several times a day.
I struggled with this early in my career, but with age comes wisdom, and I have worked out a pretty good system for my classroom. I was helping my newbie science teacher son (so proud!!!) with this the other day, and I had to think through my process.
My first priority was to make sure my students have what they need to engage in the learning activity of the day. That means the students later in the day have exactly the same access as the students in my early class periods. I had to eliminate anything being misplaced, broken (hey, it happens), or used up without me knowing about it.
My second priority was to cut way down on the amount of time I spent cleaning up after the students.
My solution to this was to designate team supplies. Since my students work in groups anyway, this was a logical step.
Each table group is labeled with a team number.
Each seat is labeled with an individual number.
Everything in my room that is a class set is numbered. If a student is assigned to seat 15, then textbook 15 is the book that is used. If something happened to the book, I know who to look for.
When we do labs, each team has designated materials. I have signs on the walls, and trays and bins labeled for each team. When students are given the signal to get supplies, they get their tray or bin from the selected spot. When it is time to clean up, each time has a designated sink in which to wash out supplies if need. The person chosen to clean up that day, rinses glassware and returns all materials to their team area. It takes me only a minute to walk by and check that everything is there and intact. If consumable supplies need replacing, then I know who needs what. No one leaves the room until all trays or bins are returned and complete.
I use the bucket as trash cans. One on each table keeps scraps of paper off the floor.