Tuesday, July 21, 2009

School Science Labs

A recent article in District Adminstration magazine (http://www.districtadministration.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=1742) discusses the aging science labs in schools across our nation and the cost of upgrading them all.

The article points out that science standards have been raised recently while lab facilities have been left to deteriorate. The costs of fixing the existing labs run between $150 and $200 per square foot meaning that an adequate lab space for 24 students will cost around $250,000 to upgrade.

In these days of plunging school budgets, this allocation of funds is simply not possible.

However, there's another answer. Scale back the full upgrade of the lab spaces so that only inexpensive, safe, and efficient hands-on labs are done. Safety equipment may be partially eliminated. Gas would no longer be required. Bunsen burners come from the 19th century and are really archaic today. Highly chemical resistant desktops could be replaced with less expensive alternatives.

Why can we make this adjustment? Because the primary advantages of hands-on labs are two-fold.
  1. They provide a kinesthetic learning experience, rounding out the other learning in science classes.
  2. They allow students to do experimental design and redesign.
Any other purpose cited for having hands-on labs either can be handled in other, safer and less expensive ways or is not really necessary for high school students. The two purposes listed above are easily achieved in a facility that is no more complex or expensive than a kitchen. While such facilities are more expensive than ordinary classrooms, they fall far below the cost of a fully-equipped science lab.

What do you then do to provide the science experiences not capable of being provided in a kitchen? After all, simulations will not do. They misrepresent the nature of science and can even deliver erroneous results. The data all come from a programmer's pencil, which cannot represent the real world and may have other flaws as well.

The answer comes from a breakthough technology: the Smart Science® education system. This system uses prerecorded real experiments to deliver the materal world to students online. For more information, see www.smartscience.net.

© 2009 by Paracomp, Inc., U.S.A. www.smartscience.net
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