Student-Designed Physics Labs in Science 10

By Ms. Elysia Jellema, Senior School Science Teacher

To culminate a year of exploring content and competencies in Science 10, students have just finished designing and conducting their own experiments to look at various phenomena related to energy. To begin, students needed to determine their own lab purpose and topic. As Ashwin remarked, “Choosing something we were interested in made the whole process more interesting.”  

Next, students designed and executed lab procedures. For instance, Amirali and Noah chose to prove acceleration due to gravity by determining the rate of acceleration of various massed objects in free fall. In his reflections, Amirali shared, “It was very cool to conduct our own lab and use different technology.  The materials we used were interesting, for example, recording velocity itself with photocells, the electronic spring scale, and the Vernier lab quest.”

The BC Science Curriculum has a wonderful focus on developing both a strong content foundation and scientific competencies to help prepare students for the future. The student lab effectively integrated both of these, as students both demonstrated and strengthened their competencies. As Ashwin shared, “I learned about what static friction is, equations to calculate it, and how you could prove the friction equation.”  

Furthermore, in Rory’s reflections he remarked, “It was good for us that we had to design an experiment because then we had to learn how to do it. If we decide to pursue science and need to do experiments, then this is something we need to learn.” For context, Rory and Calvin chose to investigate the effect of mass on springs in simple harmonic motion.  

Student-designed labs help students to develop their critical thinking skills, amplify their curiosity and extend their understanding. As Anderson poignantly summarized, “Rather than just redoing a lab that was done in the past, we were able to have creative freedom in what we wanted to explore in physics. I looked at pendulums and am now able to actually understand the formulas and how they are derived versus a bunch of random addition/subtraction.”

In these photos, Elsa and Ronja conduct their lab to examine how mass affects the final velocity of a car on an inclined plane (and their results surprise them!). And, Rachel and Pippa use Vernier photogates to investigate how changing mass affects acceleration due to gravity and if Newton’s Second Law of motion holds true.
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