Over the past few years, I have been working with several colleagues and Independent Schools and International schools on their secondary math and science. In this time, I have found that many are confused about what content should be covered and how it should be covered. Yes, I know that is a common issue for many classrooms but I am specifically talking about adding in design process and Hands-On projects. Oh, so many questions have come up but the most common one is what is the number of labs or projects that are needed for a course. I don't have an answer for how many, that question to me is like when a student says is this worth marks and how many. If we are asking how many, we are just trying to meet the status quo. There is no set recipe for what to do in a classroom, I believe it needs to go with the flow of your class and of your teaching Style.
I can only look at what I do in my classroom and have developed over the years. For example, in chemistry 11, we have 7 units and each unit has at least three or four labs plus one major design project. These are my assessment tools to see if they are understanding the content and are able to apply it in an active process. Homework or memorization is not our priority, we are more concerned with applying the knowledge as a scientist would.
One of my favorite projects for chemistry is in our gas laws unit. After introducing and experimenting with the laws, the students must create a project or lesson that shows how the laws work. I give the students a list of 20 possible products and the create your own idea, and let them at it to show the knowledge. This past year students created a blimp using an rc plane and helium balloons, a rocket out of wood, a submarine in our pool, a potato gun and a leaf blower hovercraft. The learning was evident as they created these items and showed a huge understanding of how the gas laws worked.
I don't know that there is such a thing as enough for labs or Hands-On projects or design style projects when you're in a senior science class. We are trying to get them prepared for the future and the future is in a lab not a classroom. If they are going to be a scientist, a doctor, a carpenter or even a deep-sea fisherman, we need to prepare them on how to work things out in a lab... how to design the experiment.... how to run the experiment and how to maintain your data.
Science as learning is about the process you take to get there. It is not just the facts. So please take a moment and check... are you doing enough or can we do more in our science classes. Email me, call me or tweet me and I would love to help you do an evaluation of your course with a different set of eyes. Remember I am all about putting the fun back in school and there are never enough labs or projects.