on the topic of Science Teaching
Limited resources have always been one of the biggest hurdles that I have had to overcome as a science teacher. Although my school does provide me with some funds to purchase supplies, it is not unusual to find me at the local grocery store, using my own money to purchase materials for an upcoming lab. With 125 students to buy supplies for, it doesn’t take long for the expenses to add up!
One of the things that I really appreciate about the lessons in Middle School Chemistry (MSC) is that most of them can be reproduced with limited, low cost materials. This was illustrated over the past week in my classroom when I began Chapter 1. It isn’t uncommon for me to spend $25 or $30 on a lab for one day, so I was surprised to learn that I was able to conduct hands-on investigations for an entire week for less than $25! Most of the supplies needed were common laboratory equipment (magnifiers, thermometers, safety glasses, etc.) and many of the consumable items (cups, food coloring, popsicle sticks, straws, etc.) I had either purchased for other labs or was able to bring in from home. This alone, had me very excited!
Since the lab materials were so inexpensive, I was also able to provide each student with their own set of supplies, rather than have them partner up or work in a group. Although group work is sometimes necessary due to limited supplies, there are times when one student takes control of the entire lab or there are students who are content to let his or her group members complete the exercise for them. By providing each student with his or her own equipment, I could ensure that each student took an active role in the learning process.
Another aspect of the lessons that was much appreciated was the fact that the investigations did not require a lot of planning or preparation and cleanup was minimal. Appropriate lab sheets and questions are included with each lesson, so I didn’t have to spend a lot of time developing my own lab worksheets. Each morning, I have very little time in my classroom before students arrive and I was able to set up each lab in less than ten minutes. This, too, was a nice alternative to other labs that I have used where I have had to show up 30-45 minutes prior to the start of the school day just to set up a lab exploration. Between classes, it is sometimes very difficult to conduct a lab with one class and then have it cleaned up and reset for the next class. This was not the case with the labs from MSC. I was able to easily transition from one class to another with ease and limited chaos.