Importance of science lab design

A Florida high school science teacher and FCS member recently asked for some help concerning a possible new science lab at her school. With her permission, I’m posting her concerns here for y’all to mull over.

It’s been said that our science wings will be torn down and rebuilt elsewhere to make way for a centralized cafeteria. I’m concerned that, if and when this truly happens, I will be shortchanged on lab/classroom space.

I recently visited a new high school to see their science classrooms and was saddened to find that the main chemistry lab was small and only had lab tables with stools. My current classroom is over twice the size and has long lab tables (for standing, not sitting) and a separate area for 28 individual student desks. This classroom-lab combo is far superior to the new design I’m seeing at other schools.

I’ve emailed Flinn Scientific for information on new lab design and recommendations and have received some useful feedback. I had planned to share it with our principal, but do not get the impression that he’s familiar enough with science lab design to understand the significance it has to the educational process.

I plan to talk with the School Board, the SAC committee and, if I’m lucky, directly with the architect. Any other ideas? Maybe they’ll listen.

It’s been suggested that she network with other science teachers in the area to brainstorm and maybe form a group with the goal to address this issue. She should also talk with the county science coordinator if she hasn’t already.

Here is a link to Flinn Scientific that she mentions.

I poked around on the Internet and found some sites that might be somewhat helpful. Here is the National Science Teachers Association’s position paper on The Integral Role of Laboratory Investigations in Science Instruction. Here is something from the American Association of Physics Teachers: Role of Labs in High School Physics. Here is a teacher’s assessment of some science labs he’s seen local to him in Texas (yes, it’s a political candidate’s site, but still informative on this subject). And finally here is a pdf entitled The State of Middle School and High School Science Labs in the Kansas City Region.

Anyone have any suggestions, advice or useful links to offer?

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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