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Do you think this science co-op-ish idea could work?

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I'm contemplating something like this for our small homeschool group.


The group purchases lab equipment, such as a microscope and slides, and we set up a lab thing. Not a co-op exactly. Everyone pays a fee, TBD, but based on the idea that bulk buying saves everyone money. We set up the list of labs and their descriptions well in advance, like in spring for the following year, maybe monthly. So September might be looking at cells under the microscope, October might be frog dissection, and so on. Typical biology labs (and maybe chemistry another year or something). We have space available, so that's not an issue, and we'd keep the class size to whatever the facilitator felt was reasonable. The facilitator would lead and direct the labs (with assistants), just like a teacher would, but the background info and write ups would be up to the parents. So everyone could use whatever biology curriculum they wanted, Christian, secular, honors, gentle, whatever fit their family's needs, but they wouldn't need to handle the labs themselves. We could offer ideas on lab reports, but the parents could choose exactly how detailed or whatever they wanted their students to be with the reports.


I feel like it could be a good mix of pooling resources and individualized education, but I feel like it could be a giant mess too. Thoughts?

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I wish you the best with this generous and inclusive idea. :)


But …honestly? I don't see this working very well. Perhaps I am stuck in the rut of seeing what people want and do here for science co-ops. ;)


I think the big hurdles are:


- people want labs that specifically match their specific science program (here, that's usually people doing Apologia)

- labs for a pot pourri of science topics, even if all based on Biology for the year will be difficult for middle/high school students if done out of order of their text; the point of high school labs is to add on and go deeper on the text material through hands-on experimentation; if a student hasn't studied the process yet, the lab isn't solidifying and deepening learning, and is likely to have little long-term impact or meaning for the student

- not sure how a lab facilitator makes a lab simultaneously gentle and honors level

- not sure how the lab instructor will be able to be simultaneously secular and Christian -- esp. for something like Biology…

- esp. if not doing the labs from a specific program, and doing topics in an independent order, the instructor is going to HAVE to do some teaching to provide context -- and that's going to require deciding on a level of rigor/gentleness and a basic stance (secular/Christian)...

- what will happen to the durable equipment (such as microscope and slides) purchased by group money at the end of the year -- divided up among participating families? sold and the proceeds shared equally? stored for repeated use or as a "check-out library" for participating families in the future? -- and is everyone who is contributing money okay with the plan?

- what's the contingency plan if equipment is accidentally broken or damaged? say the microscope, which is needed for more than one lab? how it is replaced/repaired? who pays? how it is handled?

- what's the age/grade range of students? it's super difficult to make a science lab class work for all the students if they are more than 1-2 grades apart in abilities (speaking from my experience of creating and leading two all hands-on science co-op class, one for gr. 1-3, and the other for gr. 4-6)

- you mention it's a small homeschool group -- how small? like, 6 families? from my own co-op science classes, I found that you really don't see much group savings unless you have between 12-20 FAMILIES all chipping in; if it's only 6 families each chipping in $50 for the year, it's hard to get very much stuff; if the per family cost will be much more than $50, families may find it costs about the same to just buy whatever supply kit goes with their science program -- plus those labs are designed to fit with their program



Not at all wanting to shoot down your kind and interesting idea. But lots of details would need to be thought through, discussed and decided in advance, and there would have to be a lot of laid-back families willing to be flexible and show a lot of grace as the inevitable unexpected issues arise… Does that describe the general attitude of your homeschool group? If so, then have some get-togethers and see if you can make it work! :) Wishing you all the best! Warmly, Lori D.

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LoriD, thank you for these thoughts. I have lots of ideas; sometimes they're good, and sometimes they're. . .a mess. ;). This definitely does sound like it could be a bit more of a headache than I was originally thinking. Maybe my alternative idea, which is for our group to purchase some things like a microscope, would be better. We have about 35 families, and we do maintain a lending library of materials (which I myself keep, so I can vouch that I could store a microscope in a safe way); we could purchase the microscope and allow families to check it out for a set period of time for a small fee (which would eventually cover its cost) plus a refundable deposit, and maybe that option might work better.

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If you do this, I would run it as a class that students have to sign up for. (It can be without homework).

I would have the teacher give some basic background.

Teach the lab to the class.

Provide format for how to write up a lab report. Expect everyone to collect data during class - choose whether you wan to make lab reports optional at the families discretion.


I've seen people teach dissection classes as standalone classes in our area.

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People on this board tend to have great input, but also tend to like writing their own curriculum and (from what I can tell) not be part of co-ops. If I based my knowledge only on WTM Boards, I would think that CC is a complete failure and about to go down in flames. But that isn't what is happening. 


So use input you get to refine your ideas, but just because this board says it won't work doesn't mean it won't work.


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I'd bill it as an enrichment class. The parents can't blame you if the labs weren't rigorous enough or didn't match their curriculum. Less pressure on you that way.


The class costs a fee. Not, "We are all part owners of all the equipment." Put leftover equipment in your homeschool library, or save it for future classes.


Each class needs four students per microscope and dead frog. Parents want their child to DO labs, not watch them. I'm sure kids can watch labs on youtube for free.


ETA: Backgound info and lab write up should be done then and there. The teacher needn't collect or grade the write ups.

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My little dd is taking a middle school level dissection class at our co-op, and it has been fabulous.


I think the way you bill it will make or break it.  Set very clear expectations so parents know what they are signing up for.  I would offer up a lab report format but set the expectation that parents will grade them.  Make it easy on yourself.

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I think you could do this if:

1) You had a scheduled year of topics that follows the typical progression of most texts in that subject


2) You required lab write-ups that people could opt out of (knowing they wouldn't be graded or looked over by you).


I am currently teaching a year long Biology Lab, 16 kids in two different classes of mixed ages 10-17. I cannot require homework and don't give out grades (as per our co-op rules), and I only have one hour per class each week. I think it is working for those who really want it to. I told everyone they could choose whatever text you want but here's the 32 week schedule of topics. I also gave them reading schedules for 3 online texts and two books - all but one chose one of the free online texts. Each week I have additional web content (videos, interactives, games, etc) on the reading schedule, kept on a class blog.


I am only "requiring" (assigning and hoping for their benefit they actually do it and get feedback) 5 full lab write-ups for the year, and 4 mini projects, as well as two reading colloquia and a vocabulary challenge. If they don't want to do it fine. Their kids, not mine. If mom wants something more, her call. One parent has asked that I grade her student and I was fine with that.


It works I think because I had the attitude of "hey! I'm teaching biology lab and I might as well do it for 8 if I'm doing it for 2. Here's my schedule. Take it or leave it. $10 per child each semester paid directly to me, plus another $100 from the co-op budget for the year." I don't have plans to make it fit someone else's plans - and if they made unreasonable requests I would just tell them to start their own class if they want it their way. So far no one has done that.

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