View Full Version : High School Science Labs Question

Stella M
06-28-2011, 02:17 AM
A serious question, not a debate starter :)

If you had a high school age child who wasn't planning on a science-related field of tertiary study BUT you were helping them keep their options open by encouraging higher level maths AND as far as science goes, your goal is for your child to be a literate citizen, understanding enough general science to help her make sense of 'issues', would doing labs be important ?

We are having trouble doing the labs :) It is time, money and mother intensive and the day, budget and me only stretch so far. We don't have a handy co-op or science class where we can do the labs. I understand that doing the labs helps in thinking scientifically. But are they essential in the above situation ?

If you are going to tell me they are essential and to get off my backside and go buy a bunsen burner, please say it nicely :)

Child is dutiful but unenthusiastic.

06-28-2011, 04:31 AM
Melissa have you looked into CSIRO.....or some of our uni's run this type of stuff....but not having a high schoolers that's about as far as Ive gone with it.

06-28-2011, 07:01 AM
I think it also depends on where the student would want to go to college, if they DO go. For some of the colleges/majors my kids are looking at, the university requires a certain number of credit hours of a lab-based science class, almost to the point that they really should be getting the credit at a local community college before they go. Kitchen-based labs don't count for these schools.

06-28-2011, 01:48 PM
I've been struggling with this with Orion, but luckily a local midwife is offerring a dissection class in January. He's not thrilled, but i'm MAKING him go. He likes science a lot - also, luckily, i plan on him going to community college first, so he can take a lab science there each semester to make up for what I probably wont get to.

I tried doing some microscope 'labs' and he hated it.

oh, i might also see if he can get more involved in the science museum, maybe they have something there? The logical process of labs can be . . . idk . . . yeah, its a lot of work to basically teach them how to design an experiment. sigh.

06-28-2011, 03:44 PM
This totally doesn't answer your question, but I have mixed feelings about that. I was like your dd, Melissa. I excelled at English and history. I wrote and read constantly. But I took the absolute minimum of science and math that I felt I could get away with while still being considered an "honors" student and make myself look half decent for colleges. I did honors bio, honors chem, and then I didn't do physics and instead did anatomy and physiology where I skipped the dissection because I was a sort of radical animal rights person at the time (gosh, sometimes, one looks at one's teenage self and eyerolls, ya know?). I took statistics instead of calculus. I did absolute no AP math or science like virtually all my friends (I took electives like Southern Literature and Psychology and Literature and two extra languages - Russian and Italian in addition to my French - to fill my course load). It didn't hurt me (much) getting into college. And it didn't hurt me later on in life. But I have always sort of regretted that I took the easy way out. I actually love science now and if I could go back I would try to slap some sense into me and make me go at least a little further with it in school. It especially blows my mind that I didn't take physics. I adore physics!

But, you know, the thing that made me love science was not experiments - it was discovering real books about science... living books so to speak, as an adult. So, I don't know.

06-28-2011, 03:48 PM
She's 13 yes? For the moment you can get away with online classes, but really there is nothing like the aha moment that happens when you see something under a microscope, or have your reaction fulfill its promise, or really begin to understand why the world works the way it does.

Science is what is. Whether she wants to be a dancer, an art dealer, an insurance saleswoman or a conceptual poet, having some grounding in how the world works is invaluable.

Don't drive yourself crazy trying to set up a home lab - look around for university or community college classes she can take when she's 16 ir 17. Get used to the language of science and the scientific process now.

B1 is clear that he's going into a scientific field so he argues he doesn't need to write fiction. I let him spend most of his time writing nonfiction, but he still has to spend time taking apart and putting together stories because being able to describe something vividly or create an atmosphere is important regardless of your field of interest.

Stella M
06-28-2011, 06:48 PM
I was kind of afraid these would be the answers :)

Our uni set up is different - it isn't the same '4years of x,y,z and the rest'. She can get into any History/Education degree without science labs, or indeed, any science in Yrs 11 and 12.

I'm not sure either that we have an equivalent of the community college set up you have there...but it's a brilliant idea not to worry about it for another few years!!! Thank you Pefa!

We saw the guinea pigs' lice under the microscope at the vets - does that count ?

Farrar, I see what you are saying - though your honours course doesn't really sound like the easy way out to me! - but that sense of wanting to challenge yourself in unfamiliar areas really has to come from the child, doesn't it ? Maybe it needs an adult perspective ? My compromise with this is keeping her math levels as high as possible, just to keep that little window open...

So really, no-one thinks it's possible to gain general scientific understanding without labs ( grasping at straws...) ?

06-28-2011, 07:02 PM
As a High School science teacher, I can say that some labs are definitely better than others. The school I teach for does not allow us much room for curriculum development, so we find ourselves modifying lab activities to make them more relevant, or just to make them work. The best labs are the ones that do not require a huge leap to figure out how it relates to the lessons it is supposed to be reinforcing. Like looking at onion root cells when studying mitosis--that is a good and relevant lab. That being said, I DO think you can learn science without labs, but it is harder to appreciate the hands-on sense of adventure and application of the scientific method that makes science so much fun IMO :grin:.

Stella M
06-28-2011, 07:07 PM
Thanks Cara - OK, so I can teach her enough science to be literate without labs, but if I want to give her the chance to find out if she really does like science or just gain an appreciation of how amazing science is, labs would be good ?

It's really tricky, because the standard of science teaching in my own h/s was low, so what I do enjoy and find interesting about science really has come from adult exposure. So I don't have a personal experience of learning from labs to draw upon to assess their need/worth.

06-28-2011, 07:13 PM
A lot of the kids in my classes come to me already convinced that they hate science, so labs are one way I rope them in. Since I teach online I can only make the lessons so engaging (since they are already written--not by me--and the kids read them at their own homes, on their own). To many of my students the fun labs are the buy-in. But in a hs situation you can approach it differently to make it more interesting and immediately relevant. Using current events with science themes is a good way to point out where science is important and useful. And of course I love the idea of learning science through literature and living books. Very cool and fun.

ETA: For labs, specifically, I guess what I am saying is to choose them carefully, and only do the ones that seem interesting and well tied to what you are learning. Otherwise they can feel like wasted time if you are not really into them.

06-28-2011, 09:32 PM
I am a former physics teacher. Still, IMHO, if the interest in the particular science is there in the student, I think she can get all the basic understanding she wants from texts, living books, videos, magazines, and the internet. Sometimes the coolest, most interesting stuff is current findings on video and magazines.

06-29-2011, 08:10 AM
Look at supercharged science, it's not cheap but she does a great job of creating labs with everyday stuff.

Labs aren't the be all and end all of science, they're the fun stuff that cement principles - you know, you can appreciate a lot of stuff without being able to do it, but knowing how much goes into a high level performance heightens the enjoyment and understanding. ITA w/Carol and Cara that there are other ways to gain knowledge. There's a lot of good science writing out there from Natalie Angier to Carl Zimmer. Some of my favorite sites include Science Blogs, Wired Science both of which have various working scientists (in the case of Science blogs) or very talented science writers (wired) writing about the stuff that they love.

Once again, I'll recommend Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything. If you/she haven't already read go get it now.

For me, the bigger issue is science literacy. Labs help but aren't the only path.

06-29-2011, 09:40 AM
I think, tho, that there are two ways to approach labs. One is the kind whe you demonstrate a principal . . . Like mix baking soda and vinegar to demonstrate reactions, or show how a potato can create electricity. But the other approach is more about creating and testing hypotheses. I know I've read about homes hookers accomplishing this somewhere . . this is more at the heart of scientific discovery or scientific thinking. I've seen the first kind of experiments kreferred to as basically science craft projects.

06-29-2011, 11:07 AM
This is exactly the situation we are in. We just finished 9th grade which included biology with lab. Next year will be chemistry with lab. Sonny excels in English, literature, history, and argumentation but is totally disinterested in math and science. *sigh* Hubby and I were/are total science geeks. How can an dad MD with two medical specialties and a mom medical/science Ph.D. have kids (both of them) who are going down the lawyer tract? Anyway... we did lab. Not a lot of labs mind you but we really had to pick them over and boil them down to what we thought would a) most benefit the boy to round out the study of this course of science, b) something he might at least find amusing, and c) something doable in the home without lots of special equipment or time on my part. (there are exceptions, such as when our daughter did human A&P my hubby arranged for her to participate in an autopsy - she really did like it)

We did a couple of microscope labs and a few dissection labs sprinkled throughout the year, we weren't doing them every week.

For next year we asked sonny about how he wanted to do the chem labs. "All at once" was his answer. So we will do the text-work, learning the science, then do the labs with a quick and dirty review of the principles, about 2-3 weeks, 2-3 days a week. Actually we will do this twice, once for each semester. Sonny said that he is kinda looking forward to chemistry vice biology because we can make some cool stinky stuff in chemistry (more specifically he wants to learn about gunpowder - he's a male - they like to blow stuff up).

We tried the "demo" using video, nah, boring! But to see it live, now that is interesting. In grade school we did a lot of demos, he loved it. But in all honesty with the Biology dissection labs, it was mostly show and tell with my hubby doing the cutting, showing, and me telling. Sonny would just sit there looking grossed out. However, he did admit it was pretty cool and by the time we got to the fetal pig he actually could tell us the organs and their functions.

Perhaps asking your student which labs they'd be interested in either seeing a demo done or actually doing it themselves. It might surprise you.

Stella M
06-29-2011, 05:43 PM
Cara, your Ipad is mean, it's calling homeschooler homehookers!

Thanks all for input, lots to ponder. Dd was interested in nursing a while back and so science had a more prominent part in our day then. She is completely off the idea after doing a first aid course - no autopsies for this girl! - and so science has dropped down the list accordingly.

Creating and testing hypotheses - thanks Cara - that's the bit I'm wondering about needing. Not so much the demonstration stuff, we've done oodles of that K - 7.

06-29-2011, 10:34 PM
Cara, your Ipad is mean, it's calling homeschooler
OMG I'm so sorry!!! :D :o;)

06-29-2011, 11:38 PM
My iPhone did the same thing. But I caught it before I ended up on that website Mark is so obsessed with. :D

Stella M
06-30-2011, 06:03 PM
Now I can't think of science experiments without thinking of a home hooker bustling about in fishnets and high heels preparing the microscope slides.

I will just have to go the science with books route after all, lest my mind be further sullied with these unscientific images. Such a shame...

06-30-2011, 07:19 PM
Where do you think those fishnets come from? To say nothing of the vinyl uppers for those stilettos, and all those fake eyelashes, fingernail extensions and lipstick. Science. We'd be wrapped in burlap without it.

06-30-2011, 07:23 PM
I keep getting stuck on what a strange autocorrect that is. I mean, there are lots of homeSCHOOLERS... but really, are there that many people practicing prostitution in their own home? Doesn't one go elsewhere for that? You know, for safety reasons? Or am I overthinking it? Probably overthinking.

Stella M
06-30-2011, 07:37 PM
Actually, I think sometimes 'mature ladies' or 'sisters' sometimes work from home.

06-30-2011, 08:58 PM
i probaby tried to delete some other typo and ended up w that. no idea. on my pc now . . .

06-30-2011, 09:50 PM
I have a degree in biochemistry and, frankly, I think that high school science labs are mostly idiotic. I also think that 90% of K-8 science "activities" are worthless.

That said, I also think it's important not to categorize a kid's interests in high school. When I was in high school there was *no way* I was going into science. I was a humanities type through and through. And lo and behold, at the end of my sophomore year in college, I switched from a psychology major to biochemistry. Go figure. And then I worked in the field for 10 years after graduation.

So, I'd say do the labs, but don't drive yourself crazy. Take a look at the LabPaqs (highly recommended; we used one of their chemistry ones and it was good).

Stella M
06-30-2011, 10:06 PM
Thanks Kai, I'm appreciating getting input from 'science people' on this one.