7 Ways Schools Can Use Shipping Containers

What are some ways schools can use shipping containers?

The effects of the coronavirus on the global education system are far reaching.

Schools closures have happened all around the world, disrupting the normal learning process for students across the globe.

Though we’re still currently trying to navigate around the outbreak, school officials and staff are looking at how to proceed when the new school year approaches.

This infographic shows other ways COVID-19 has affected education.

How can students continue learning if schools continue to be closed?

How does learning reach those in areas that may not have access to broadband speeds?

The answer may lie with the use of shipping containers.

In this article, we’ll look at 7 ways schools can use shipping containers to re-open and be more efficient!

7 Ways Schools Can Use Shipping Containers


1. Libraries

Before the outbreak, schools faced budget cut challenges and shrinking space.

Librarians have been hit especially hard, with hours and budgets shrinking or being cut completely.

For many schools, especially those in low-income areas, the library is a critical place to get and read books.

And it’s not just K-12 libraries that are suffering.

Universities and colleges are also facing fiscal challenges in the midst and aftermath of COVID-19.

Shipping containers have been used for many alternative building options, due to the low cost of construction and movability aspects.

With schools being closed, the concern of students not being able to continue learning or reading can be off-set with a portable library.

This was the exact idea for Dutch children’s library, BiebBus. The library packs 100 meters (or 328 feet) of book shelves and features a reading room above.

BiebBus Library

The design allows a transparent floor to help adults keep an eye on their kids, as well as a funhouse effect with a magnifying floor.

This allows children to select a book (or two or three) and enjoy reading them in a fun environment. With its portability, the BiebBus is able to travel anywhere.


2. Classrooms

With budget cuts, many teachers are seeing their class sizes expand.

This is in part to teacher layoffs, meaning that many students are being corralled into different classrooms.

This means more students per teacher, which can pose a number of challenges:

  • More students mean more spending on supplies, which many teachers end up paying out of pocket.
  • Students who might have trouble with certain subjects or learning disabilities may be missed or lost in large classrooms.
  • Limited space within classrooms.
  • Student engagement may be lower in larger classes.
  • Teacher retention may be lower with larger class assignments.

Scientific studies on smaller vs larger classes has differed, with studies identifying that younger students (usually K-3) are better served with smaller class sizes, but larger classes are better for older students.

Classroom with children

Photo by CDC on Unsplash


The issue for some districts is the inability to reduce class sizes, even if doing so would prove beneficial to their student body.

There is of course the added consideration of COVID-19 and where we will be when schools open up again in the fall.

Larger class sizes could further spread the virus, not just to children, but teachers, staff, and their families.

Shipping containers can be used as extra classrooms, or modified to fit the class size needed.

This would allow for smaller class sizes in additional to the current school rooms.

It would also provide an alternative to schools that may remained closed for the school year. Individual containers could be dispersed to student areas, reducing class sizes there as well.

These could also help benefit disadvantaged students, which we’ll look at in the next section.


3. Technology Rooms

Technology has changed the way we approach business and education.

But while technology has brought many of us together, there are still households that don’t have access to Internet services or who don’t have the internet speeds needed for remote learning.

Only 32% of K-12 students were able to get better or average schooling while at home.

For those in low-income areas, these numbers are much lower.

For instance, 60% of low-income students received low-quality remote instruction, while 40% received no instruction at all.

Level of Remote Instruction

This of course makes learning even more challenging for districts that may need to stay closed during the summer and the fall.

Using shipping containers, schools can set up technology hubs, both during the school year and the summer.

These hubs are geared towards giving students access to technology.

Samsung did exactly that for a rural area in Johannesburg, South Africa by creating an environmentally friendly mobile schoolhouse.

samasung solar powered school

The container is powered with photo-voltaic panels on the roof and generates nine hours of electricity a day.

It’s equipped with a 50-inch electronic board, internet enabled notebooks, tablets, and wi-fi cameras.

The school’s classroom holds 21 students; however shipping containers can be modified or customized to fit more students if needed or to split rooms for more students.


4. Science Labs

As with technology rooms above, school districts also have issues with supplying science labs.

STEM education – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – has gotten a major focus in the last few years, especially in the US.

The US was ranked as 38th in math and 24th in science on the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment. Economic projections have found the need for 1 million more STEM professionals.

While the focus on STEM education is important, roughly 40% of college students who major in STEM end up switching to other subjects.

Research has shown that the earlier children are exposed to STEM, the more successful they will be with it later. But with schools closed, how will STEM education be brought to students?

With shipping containers!

Shipping containers can be used and set up to be science labs, both for educational purposes and even medical purposes.

Bard College Science Lab

A science lab can be set up within a shipping container, allowing for students to continue learning. Bard College, for instance, built their own science lab from two containers.

The lab was built and operational within half a day and is open to different departments for their own research purposes.

The lab was built using four recycled shipping containers, creating a double wide and double tall arrangement.


5. Sports Rooms & Athletic Storage

One of the industries that shut down production was that of major league sports. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and other major sporting events halted seasonal games.

With schools closed, this also meant any school sporting events have been suspended until further notice.

Many students use sports as recreational activities while at school, which leaves athletes with no place to play.

It may seem strange, but shipping containers can also be used for sporting rooms and halls.

Take for example this high school in the Dominican Republic.

TEARS DR Sports Hall

The school itself was made from 22 shipping containers and showcases a large 300 sq. ft sports hall that resides in the center.

This gives a big enough area not only to enjoy school sports, but also any other events.

In addition to providing a place to play, you can also use containers for storage.

Shipping storage containers can and have been used to store sporting equipment.


6. Locker Rooms

To go along with the above, shipping containers can be easily converted into locker rooms that can be placed adjacent to a gym or rec center.

These locker rooms can be equipped with bathrooms, showers, or both.

They can also be set up to be ADA-compliant.


7. Record Storage

We’ve mentioned how schools can use shipping containers for libraries, classrooms, tech rooms, labs, sports rooms, and locker rooms.

While these are options to help students continue learning while in lock down, shipping containers can be used for storage as well.

Southwest Mobile Storage Shipping Container

This is a great idea for school records, especially if they are in paper format. Many schools have yet to digitize their paper records, which can be lost or destroyed.

Thanks to their durability, shipping containers can withstand extreme weather conditions, such as earthquakes and fires.

This helps to protect sensitive records, even ones that are decades old.

In this article, we looked at 7 ways schools can use shipping containers during this unique time.

The decision for re-opening schools for the fall is still uncertain, but there are opportunities to ensure that students aren’t adversely affected.

We’ve outlined a few different ways schools can use shipping containers while closed and how they can be used even after re-opening.

If you’re a school that’s looking to use shipping containers, get in touch with us!

Our shipping container experts have over 25 years’ experience in helping our customers pick the right containers for their projects.

Speak with one of our experts at 800.686.9114 today or fill out the form below to discover the different options for your school.