Kids Doing Exploratory Laboratory Science

How do you create a laboratory science learning experience, which is as authentically exploratory?  

As you can imagine, kids doing authentic laboratory science presents an interesting dilemma for educators!

While seemingly fun from a kid's perspective, you can’t have kids forge ahead - mixing chemicals, igniting Bunsen burners, assembling delicate lab glassware - with self-selected projects rooted in genuine interest. This is not an option. Yet, establishing overbearing objectives and firmly preselected learning outcomes robs the students of autonomy and any opportunity for veritable interest and engagement. This would not even be science! 

In other words, the question is, 'how do you build in play and discovery into an authentic laboratory science education where safe, prudent protocol is paramount?'

We have an answer. After all, it is what we think about at QuantumCamp! 

We think beyond the lesson plan, even beyond the unit. We recognize both what science is and where students are along their multi-year timeline of cognitive and social growth.

In the laboratory classroom, for our Level 1 (1st  and 2nd graders) students, we emphasize routines with no right/wrong paradigm. Emphasis is placed on the practice and process of doing lab work. All scientific theories are accepted! The goal is simply to create a culture of brainstorming and proposing meaning. Trying new things is encouraged but this must follow a certain procedure. 

For our Level 4 (7th and 8th graders) students, the teacher now is challenging all hypotheses and conclusions and encouraging fellow students to do the same. Process and protocol are still very seriously revered. But the learning community seeks evidence supporting contentions. the learning community proposes and conducts additional experiments, which can confirm hypotheses and inductions?

By fostering respect for safety and protocol, students can propose and conduct new experiments and see, for themselves, what happens. This is authentic, engaging science!