Whenever we enter the physics lab (really, it’s just the back half of my room so I’m talking metaphorically here), I feel the weight of big-S Science on my shoulders. I want to do it right. But I don’t know really what that means.

For one, I know a little about inquiry and know that I want some of that in my labs. Years of traditional education taught me that science and my own curiosity weren’t similar at all. You went in, followed some complex procedure and verified something you already knew and believed. Unfortunately for me, the verification and “proving” didn’t mean anything because the procedure shrouded all the real discovery in mystery.

For another, dispelling misconceptions seems like the most important work I can undertake as a science teacher. I definitely want some of that in my labs.

I think I’m improving at writing labs but they’re still unsatisfactory. Here’s my emotional laboratory roller coaster that often ends at unsatisfying:

I accept the challenge to write a lab that doesn’t feel like a waste of time and that kids actually learn from.

About the Lens Lab

Below is an optics lab I wrote with a colleague. We’ve already studied mirrors and done a little investigation with converging lenses. Kids know the mirror/lens equation:

My focus is on getting the kids to understand 1) the focal length (F) is a property of a lens independent of where you place an object, 2) when an object is placed at near-infinite distance from the lens, the image distance (di) equals the focal length (F), and 3) that the kids already know of real uses for lenses in different configurations. Do these goals come through in the lab?

I’m pretty happy with the final part (bottom of the last page).

Assume I’m not interested in a complete overhaul to modeling physics. What suggestions do you have to make my lab, or labs in general, better?