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Day 49: Limited Labbing

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Day 49/180: a quick limiting reaction reaction

There’s a sense of accomplishment in long and complicated experiments, especially when the product generated is pretty or explosive or aromatic. But there’s a beauty in quick and simple labs, where there’s enough to pick through for analysis. It may only be baking soda and hydrochloric acid, but why did the mass go down and why is the percent yield higher than 100%?!

Today, a student asked why I couldn’t just demonstrate the lab for everyone while they wrote down the numbers. I asked if I should just play a video of the lab instead.

This is a good student. One who’s just trying to get classwork done faster because she already gets it. In fact, without watching the lab, she’d probably already predicted what will happen and why. And she didn’t suggest this in a mean spirit, but mostly as a joke.

During teacher training, I remember one class where our professor was talking to us pre-service science teachers about kids without motivation. He reminded us that we were becoming teachers soon, and we probably liked school since we intended on spending our vocational lives there, but that some kids — a lot of kids — don’t like school for some reason or another, and to be understanding of our students. Most of us took that realization and nodded. The student teacher next to me was absolutely incredulous that anyone could not like school. She knew that some people didn’t get good grades, but that was no reason to not like it. I never understood this woman, and I don’t know if she’s still teaching or not.

So what’s the purpose of labs? Besides the whole hands-on-is-generally-better-for-retention thing. Why make kids do work in a science classroom? Why stand up and read plays in English class? What’s the purpose of simulating WWII battles or Model UN? Why not just have someone else do it?

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