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weighing scales in a classroom

How to Choose the Best Weighing Scale for Your Classroom

Managing a classroom can prove challenging even for the most experienced teacher. Overseeing large groups of students, having relevant and engaging learning material, and ensuring you have the correct teaching equipment can be both stressful and time consuming.

Providing the best weighing scales for your students can make the difference between a successful, engaging lesson to a stressful and forgettable learning experience. Many classroom experiments require students to record some form of measurement for safely mixing chemical compounds together. It is essential to use weighing scales and balances that are both accurate and reliable.

This post examines the importance of weighing scales and balances for education, looking at how scales can be used, why they are necessary, and the different types of classroom weighing equipment currently available.

How are weighing scales used for education?

Weighing scales are often used by students for completing scientific weighing experiments as part of a school's curriculum. While most standard weighing scales are sufficient for carrying our such experiments up to KS4, more advanced scales and balances are required for more difficult experiments. For example, high school and college students may need to perform density determination experiments as part of a practical lab lesson, whilst triple beam balances are often relied upon for this due to the below balance weighing function, analytical balances may include built-in density determination modes that streamline this process through stored formulas and calculations.

In summary, classroom weighing devices should be easy to operate and versatile, from simple object lifting with force gauges in classrooms to scientific, high-precision weighing with analytical balances in university science laboratories.

Which weighing scales are most commonly used for education?

The selection of a weighing scale or balance depends entirely on the education level, environment and intention.

Mechanical and digital scales such as spring balances, triple-beam balances, pocket scales and compact balances are ideal for KS1 or KS2 students performing simple weighing tasks. College and university students might use simple digital and mechanical scales to conduct field experiments.

More advanced weighing tasks are performed on analytical balances and portable precision balances. Analytical balances feature high readabilities and are required for weighing sensitive chemicals and compounds in small increments. Due to the complexity of the weighing involved, analytical balances are used in science laboratories within larger schools, colleges and universities. 

Types of mechanical balance

There are many types of mechanical balances on the market, including triple-beam balances, force gauges and spring balances. Mechanical balances are relied upon in schools for their convenience, ease-of-use and low cost. They are ideal learning aids for introducing young students to the concept of mass measurement.

Here we have included a step-by-step guide on how to measure with a triple-beam balance:

How to use a triple beam balance

  1. Tare/zero the balance – slide all of the weight poises to the end of the rider beams and ensure all of the pointers are pointing to the zero line.
  2. Place the object on the weighing platform – this will cause the pointer to move up the beams.
  3. Slide all the weight poises back to zero again to obtain the weight – you will need to begin with the heaviest of the weight poises and work downward to the lightest weight in order to increase the accuracy of your results.
  4. Mark the position of each weight poise and add together – start with the heaviest to avoid complication (e.g. 75+25+4.3=104.3g).

Triple-beam balance calibration

In order to calibrate the triple-beam balance, you will need to move all weight poises to the leftmost position. From here, twist the screw below the weighing pan until the pointers line up with the zero mark.

Types of precision balance

Precision scales and balances can be used for weighing tasks that require a high level of accuracy and precision. Types of precision balance include analytical balances, micro-analytical balances and portable precision balances.

How to use an analytical balance

  1. Check whether you are using and internal or externally calibrated balance - some analytical balance models feature internal calibration which can be be programmed automatically from the balance. Alternatively, external scale calibration requires approved calibration weights - see our analytical balance calibration section below for more information on how to calibrate your balance, or locate the manual specific to the balance you are using.
  2. Ensure the balance is displayed as zero before weighing. Zero/ tare the balance if zero is not showing automatically.
  3. Check that you have the balance programmed correctly. Are you measuring density, percentages or checkweighing?
  4. Carefully place the chemicals/ compounds into the weighing chamber. Ensure that the draft shield is fully closed to prevent contamination of results.
  5. Record the value shown on the LED display. 

Analytical balance calibration

Analytical balances require frequent calibration in order to be used effectively. Some of these come with pre-configured internal calibration, whilst others will require external calibration.

Analytical balances with internal calibration can be set to calibrate at specific times or intervals, whilst some require users to press a button.

Balances that are externally calibrated will require approved calibration weights and must be handled with care to prevent invalid results. Individual weights will need to be placed onto the scale and adjusted accordingly to match the weight with the reading. 

Three things to consider when conducting science experiments

Science classrooms have to contend with rigorous equipment checks and health and safety guidelines to ensure students are working in a safe environment when conducting experiments. Two things in particular are required for successful and safe science experiment:

1) Preparation – This is vital to any successful lesson. From using the correct learning resources to creating comprehensive lesson plans; if you prepare in advance, you are more likely to deliver a focused and engaging lesson, which in turn, will help reduce stress levels.

2) Regular, proper maintenance procedures – Having correct and regularly maintained equipment can be a deciding factor between successful lessons and a potentially unsafe learning experience. For example, a split in the rubber tube connecting a Bunsen burner to gas mains can cause gas to be released into the laboratory atmosphere, endangering anyone in the vicinity.

3) Classroom/ class size ratio – The ratio between classroom size and number of students can affect how and what experiments take place. For example, a large number of students in a small classroom will increase the risks involved with more scientific experiments such as the mixing of hazardous chemicals or operating Bunsen burners. On the other hand, large classrooms with fewer students allow better control when overseeing the experiment. 

Choosing the right education weighing scale for you

Selecting the right weighing device will depend on education level, education environment and intention. For example, if you intend to use your balance for measuring density in small increments, you will require an analytical balance rather than a mechanical balance. If you are working with KS1 or KS2 students, you might need to consider which scale is easiest to use when teaching your experiment. Triple-beam balances are typically more complicated to use compared to other mechanical scale varieties, such as spring balances.

Recommended education scales

TBB Triple-Beam Balance

Low cost, accurate and reliable, TBB triple beam balances offer convenience and security for teaching students concepts of mass measurement. Ideal for school classroom environments. 

A&D HR Series Analytical Balance

Highly accurate, professional scientific scales, the HR series analytical balances are used for measuring chemicals and compounds to high readabilities. Ideal for universities and science laboratories.

Dune Portable Compact Balance

Compact, portable and easy-to-use, Dune compact balances are highly versatile weighing scales that can be used for a variety of simple weighing tasks in the classroom. Ideal for younger student learning.

See also:

A Guide to Choosing the Best Mechanical Scale

Scales for Schools: Buy the Best Scale for Your Classroom

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