Thursday, January 30, 2014

Science Labs Are NOT Necessary for Learning

A few years ago, I remember hearing a lecture by Dr. Jay Wile at a homeschool convention, where he stated that science labs are not necessary, even for high school students. My kids were little at the time, so I didn't give it much thought. Until yesterday.

All of a sudden, it hit me. What he said sank in. I'm not sure if it's because I've been planning my 7th grader's high school years already, or because my friends with high schoolers seem to be worried about getting enough science lab experiments, but it really came full circle and suddenly made a lot of sense.

Dr. Jay Wile has expressed that experiments and teaching your child to use the scientific method early on are very important in the elementary years. As they enter middle school and high school, they should switch gears to focus on more gaining of knowledge than how many experiments they can do. (Dr. Jay’s Top 10 Homeschool Science Tips). He has also said that, "Labs are fun and interesting, but not a necessary part of learning." (Page 7 of these notes, which are the exact notes given to us at the lecture. You will find other interesting information included!)

Now, my question is, if labs aren't that important to the author of science textbooks and a former university professor, why are moms going out of our way to spend money and time shuttling our kids to science classes so they can get lab experience?

My guess is because we did labs in school, and we don't want to "neglect" our children just because they are homeschooled. Also, if you pay attention at all to what public schools do (or argue about when it comes to money), you know how much emphasis the school boards put on new and improved science labs, and you may have even seen them spend hundreds of thousands more to relocate classrooms to upgrade science labs to some arbitrary standard set by someone, somewhere (Washington?)  So we were told in school, lab time is important. We are told by the school board, we MUST have the best labs in our schools. (Which is ironic given the failure of our schools already, right?) You really have to get off the ride and stop and think about it for a minute. How many students actually have ANY interest in pursuing science, and how many actually do?

Now let me tell you something that might blow you away. I don't know how many hours I spent in the lab in junior high and high school. But I did not spend ONE MINUTE in a lab during my four years in college. GASP! And guess what I ended up teaching my first year after graduation? Seventh grade science! Let that sink in a minute.

And let me be perfectly honest, there are high school graduates who make better teachers than those with college degrees.

After taking the usual biology, chemistry, physics, (and I also took extra science, including anatomy/physiology) in high school, I did not want to repeat those courses in college. So I took an astronomy class and a class on the physics of sound, both of which were very interesting. But the truth is, there is a very small fraction of people who EVER need to know what even happens in a lab. Those people should do as many labs as they need to. The average student...not so much!

So don't worry about fitting that science lab with other homeschoolers into your schedule. If it's right down the street and fits your schedule perfectly and you happen to have extra money laying around to pay for it, go for it. But don't stress out if you don't or can't do labs. Your student will not suffer for it and the world WILL go on. I promise!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sooo grateful that you wrote about labs in your blog. As amother of one high school graduate (1 of 3 children), I've been feeling guilty that my daughter studied Science with no labs at all. I felt like a failure for not doing it. My daughter, on the other hand, she told me not to stress about it because she knows that she won't need it (labs) as part of her future career. Thank you again.