Saturday, January 14, 2012

High School Science labs

As a career biology teacher, I've recently taken on the challenge and privilege of volunteering as the "science lab coordinator" at a Christian boarding school. The boys get their middle school or high school curriculum via Switched on Schoolhouse (SOS), which is a Christian homeschooling software curriculum. While the teachers tried to include hands-on science labs as much as they could, with up to 25 boys in different science courses and within different units in those courses, it makes it too difficult to be practical. Therefore, I am doing labs with the boys 2 days a week. I'm getting a chance to pull out labs I used to do with my public high school students. Sometimes I rewrite existing SOS labs-improving them to be more inquiry, and sometimes I'm writing new labs entirely. I'd like for this blog to be a place I can share those with you.

This is a photo of my lab space. Nice huh? Rocky Mount Church, from North Carolina came last summer to design and build this lab. [Side note: I had not yet contacted the school about volunteering. God made this a case of "If you build it, she will come!" Totally a God thing.] The room came with basic science supplies like a microscope, basic glassware, magnets, rulers etc. Not only the space functional, it is beautiful. I don't know who did the decorating, but I LOVE the classy science decor (notice the ThInK sign above the door). I never have more than six boys at a time so the space is perfect.

I've been doing labs since November, and so far we've done 2 microscope labs (rotating 6 boys around one scope has its challenges), graphing lab, Calculating volume lab, Living-Non lab (a personal favorite of mine), Probability lab, and Cleaning up after an oil spill lab (a great inquiry lab). I've posted some of them here for you in Google Docs. I suppose at some later time, I can spend more time talking about the labs.

Guidelines for Lab Drawings: I am kinda particular on how students do lab drawings, this is my description of how they are to be done! (Ok so I'm OCD!)
First Microscope Lab: Traditional, cutting out newspaper letter, and looking at colored threads.
Cheek Cell Lab: I have students make three slides, as methaline blue stain on one, iodine on another, and no stain on the third. Then they compare them and determine best as they can the shape of their cells.
Determining Volume: In this lab students measure linear objects (like small boxes) to find their volume, then use the principle of displacement by dropping irregular shaped objects into graduated cylinders and beakers to find the change in water level.
Graphing: Basic paper lab that leads students to make line, bar, and pie graphs. Honestly, its not that great.
Cleaning up an oil spill: I modified this lab from (25 Low-cost Biology Investigations by Joel Beller) and I really like it. Students are provided a bunch of materials and they work to determine which best clean up an oil (veg. oil) spill in their ocean (water in a pie tin).


  1. The lab is so awesome! I look forward to seeing more of your lab activities :)

  2. Ok, I just saved this page to my faves; I am curious to see how this will play out! I love that you're sharing this info with others!


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