The Trouble with Lab is…

The trouble with lab is…said to the tempo of Kelly Clarkson’s song “The Trouble with Love Is.” Don’t know the song? Here ya go…

What’s got me singing the lab blues? Exhaustion, frustration, and well my belief that it will be better next time. We all know students can’t wait to do a lab. They beg for them starting day 1, “Mrs. J, when are we going to do a lab?” “Please can we do a lab?” I have 3 preps this year (Chem 1, 2 and college prep) so my Chem 1 classes have seen the set up for the others and have been particularly eager.

Last week the time had finally come for my classes to do a lab….all of them….at the same time….over multiple days. (Side note: we’ve been doing labs all semester but I’ve been able to stagger them….unfortunately not this time) To say the week was stressful would be an understatement. First, I want to say I work with amazing colleagues who help with set up when they can, but even with their help managing three different labs was a bit much. Chem 2 is working on Collision Theory and the conditions that affect reaction rates, CP Chem is beginning heating and cooling concepts, and Chem 1 is focused on mixtures, solutions, and chemical/physical changes. The only thing these labs had in common was a ring stand lol If you’re a teacher that has to set up labs I don’t have to tell you about the amount of time required to set up for ONE lab, let alone three! (It’s HOURS, for everyone else) Thank you Ryan Reynolds for knowing my pain….

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Here is were my frustration lies….students and lab procedures. You know those students who were so eager to do a lab? They have now become “Why do we have to do this?” “This is boring.” “When are we going to do something fun?” “When are we going to get to blow stuff up?” “What do you mean I have to write down my observations and/or answer the questions?” “What do I do next?” “What does it mean by lower the test tube?” “Do I really have to wear goggles?” Here are my responses with memes:

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I believe most of their questions stem from their fear of doing something wrong and their inexperience of performing labs. I’ve tried a lot to help with this over the years. I’ve had students write out the lab procedures individually and in small groups, read and paraphrase, mini-quiz over procedures, read over then make a materials list, pair and share, and simply give them the procedures to read and perform. I’ve also shown them how to set up the lab and I’ve had them set it up as I showed them. I still get the same questions every time. Anyone else have these problems??? Anyone have suggestions as to what to do?

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The trouble with lab is….it’s frustrating, exhausting, and I still love doing it. I love engaging students in investigations that many will never have to the chance of doing ever again. I love challenging students and putting them in uncomfortable scenarios that get them learning and growing. I love the excitement when something unexpected happens. I love seeing them feel accomplished after writing their own lab procedures for the first time and figuring out all the materials they’ll need. I love watching them work together. I love teaching them how to use evidence to support their explanations. And yes, they’ll get frustrated, I’ll get frustrated, and many will hate it, but I’d do it again. And again. And again. Because even if I reach just one student, it was worth it. I love science. I love teaching. I love my students. And, I love teaching my students with labs…..and memes 🙂 So the next time I have to do a lab with my students, this will be me:

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2 thoughts on “The Trouble with Lab is…

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