Lab Ideas

The links have been updated (Jan 1 2013) to a Google Drive folder. Most but maybe not all labs are available. To view the docs properly you will need to download the file.

When do you learn best? Reading a manual for your VCR or grabbing the remote and just playing around?

My idea of labs is not to give the students a list of things to do, a list of data to collect and then prescribe a method to analyze the data. Following directions is not understanding physics! Rather I tend to give open ended labs, or explorations…

Planning Labs: These are the kind of things I submitted to the IB.

  • "General Prop Labs" - give them a prop and see what they can come up with. For example, a chunk of clay, a balloon, small magnets, iron rods, rubber bands, electric motors… I liked to give the kids options too, give them a range of props.
  • Bottle Draining Lab - Get a plastic bottle, drill a hole, look at the rate of draining or the total time to drain vs hole size.
  • Measuring Magnetic Force - simply investigate the force vs. range for two magnets. Exploring how the magnetic field relates to forces between magnets.

Exploration: Great way to get kids to learn on their own…

  • Uncertanity Lab (Excel - Word) - The excel spreadsheet generates random data for a cylinder rolling down a ramp. The students can copy the data and "paste special" into their own excel sheet. Each student then has their own data and own results! The word document has step by step directions to help the students.
  • Circuit Basics - Just an exploration of ciruits, hands on learning. Worked great.

Review Labs: I used these with my SL students as reviews.

  • Proving Newtons's 2nd Law - Not the F=ma but the other one… Let them come up with a method.
  • Crocodile Physics: A great program, computer simulations simplify the physics for the students (I learned this was a VERY good thing) and a great way to get some lab hours (we were a laptop school).

Need Help on A Lab?

I'm happy to help with labs, but some info is good to have.

  • Is the lab a "design lab?"
  • Did your teacher give you particular materials?
  • Did your teacher give you a set of instructions to follow? Or is it very open ended?
  • What are your independent and dependent variables?
  • Essentially and most importantly: What's the goal of the lab?

Knowing (some of) these bits of info helps me help you.

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