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I'm sure this varies, but in your experience, what is a reasonable number of labs for a first high school biology class (not AP)

Background: I have two rising eighth graders who have expressed a minor interest in taking biology next year. We found an online class that fit the bill, labs are not a major focus, but that seemed fine. Now I  have been approached by someone IRL to do biology labs with her rising eighth grader. I don't know if we can make it work schedule-wise, but I'm intrigued about the possibility of turning this into a Lab Science. Would six labs be sufficient? Should it be closer to one a month?

I've tried looking for syllabus examples but I'm not having luck.

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I'm agreeing it varies.  I just found a group school syllabus that is listed as Honors and it was 6 labs a semester. I've seen some places need to meet a percentage of time to count (for some state's public system).  I've seen where it's at least one lab per unit. looking forward to hearing wide variety of answers.  I don't know if it would help you or not, but maybe looking at the  table of contents  from apologia would help you have something to make your decision. (or any other publisher, but I could find this link easily) https://www.homesciencetools.com/content/reference/biology_toc.pdf

When we did apologia biology, we did 3 out of the 4 listed dissections. We did  Most but not all of the "field study" (and paper labs - such as reading key ,and making those squares with your blood type and ear lobe genetics). And most but not all of the microscope labs.  It was doable and fun.  Could we have done less and still counted it as lab?  in my state, yes. 

not much of an answer, but maybe seeing some of those lab titles will help you as you design a lab.

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When I taught biology last year (9th), we did one lab a week, so about 36.  Maybe a few less if we skipped a week or had a lab that spanned two weeks.  

This year, we’ve done all the labs in the chemistry book, so we’ve done 46 so far with 2 to go.

Next year, from what I can tell, the physics program we’re using has only 10 labs.  

I think it can vary greatly.  I, obviously, prefer to do as many as possible.  It brings the subject alive to my student.  The labs wear me out a bit, but my son seems to like doing them.

For lab reports:

In biology, he did 2 full lab reports, but all the other labs were recorded on worksheets that lightly outined what we did.
This year in chemistry, he is working on his 6th full lab report now, and the other labs were recorded on worksheets.
I don’t know what the teacher will require for lab reports next year, as we’re using an online program (Derek Owens) but haven’t started it yet.

My son takes his sweet time with lab reports, so they’re not a lot of fun to do around here. I don’t find it necessary to do full lab reports for every lab, but I would require at least 2 for the first year, and then more in subsequent years.

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One per week for every week of school around here would be the standard. That's for gen ed high school students. Pretty sure the assumption is that you're going to absorb some and miss some so repetition of the method is part of the goal. If the kid is bright / motivated / labs are strong, I'm sure you could do less.

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Thanks!

I guess there are more labs going on than I expected.  Perhaps my image of what a lab is has been too narrow. I would not have thought to count things that looked worksheet based. Garga's post is helping me understand better what constitutes a lab.  It could also be that I am not excited about doing labs and was hoping to do a minimum!

I wasn't planning on this being a lab course at all, so perhaps any labs would just be a bonus. The actual class that they are enrolled in will likely also have some labs (using the broader definition). I guess it isn't a big deal. We can just move forward and I can decide later whether to call it "with Lab" or not. Clearly I need to up my expectations on the number of labs if I want to use that designation, though.

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10 hours ago, cbollin said:

I'm agreeing it varies.  I just found a group school syllabus that is listed as Honors and it was 6 labs a semester. I've seen some places need to meet a percentage of time to count (for some state's public system).  I've seen where it's at least one lab per unit. looking forward to hearing wide variety of answers.  I don't know if it would help you or not, but maybe looking at the  table of contents  from apologia would help you have something to make your decision. (or any other publisher, but I could find this link easily) https://www.homesciencetools.com/content/reference/biology_toc.pdf

When we did apologia biology, we did 3 out of the 4 listed dissections. We did  Most but not all of the "field study" (and paper labs - such as reading key ,and making those squares with your blood type and ear lobe genetics). And most but not all of the microscope labs.  It was doable and fun.  Could we have done less and still counted it as lab?  in my state, yes. 

not much of an answer, but maybe seeing some of those lab titles will help you as you design a lab.

It looks like Apologia has 32 "Experiments". This is not a curriculum I could use, but it is useful to see how they spread them out and how many there are.  I think I'm the opposite of excited about full lab write-ups, but if I limit the number of those (2 sounds doable) then doing lots of labs DOES sound like something I could handle. Especially with another family for accountability and discussion. I'm perusing them table of contents of the Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments.  Off to dig deeper!

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11 minutes ago, SusanC said:

Thanks!

I guess there are more labs going on than I expected.  Perhaps my image of what a lab is has been too narrow. I would not have thought to count things that looked worksheet based. Garga's post is helping me understand better what constitutes a lab.  It could also be that I am not excited about doing labs and was hoping to do a minimum!

I wasn't planning on this being a lab course at all, so perhaps any labs would just be a bonus. The actual class that they are enrolled in will likely also have some labs (using the broader definition). I guess it isn't a big deal. We can just move forward and I can decide later whether to call it "with Lab" or not. Clearly I need to up my expectations on the number of labs if I want to use that designation, though.

 

Wait....our labs were never just doing worksheets.   We always were actually using lab equipment like beakers and microscopes.  No lab was something we did on a piece of paper.  They were all hands on, full labs.  There were always chemicals and supplies and safety googles, etc.  

The reports were for after the labs were done, and a somewhat important part of doing labs.  Kids ought to learn how to do lab reports somewhere in high school.  The reports are for after the work in the lab is done.  For some of the labs, we’d write up a full lab report where you write a complete hypothesis and a complete list of supplies and a complete list of steps taken and a list of conclusions, etc. 

But for other labs, we’d simply fill out a one page paper with the name of the lab and a brief sketch of what happened, without the hypothesis or complete list of supplies and step by step list, etc.  

So, I would not count things that were worksheet based as labs.  That’s not what we did.  (Insert smilie here.)

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4 minutes ago, SusanC said:

It looks like Apologia has 32 "Experiments". This is not a curriculum I could use, but it is useful to see how they spread them out and how many there are.  I think I'm the opposite of excited about full lab write-ups, but if I limit the number of those (2 sounds doable) then doing lots of labs DOES sound like something I could handle. Especially with another family for accountability and discussion. I'm perusing them table of contents of the Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments.  Off to dig deeper!

 

Our biology labs were all from the Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments, and we did about one of those labs per week.

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6 minutes ago, Garga said:

 

Wait....our labs were never just doing worksheets.   We always were actually using lab equipment like beakers and microscopes.  No lab was something we did on a piece of paper.  They were all hands on, full labs.  There were always chemicals and supplies and safety googles, etc.  

The reports were for after the labs were done, and a somewhat important part of doing labs.  Kids ought to learn how to do lab reports somewhere in high school.  The reports are for after the work in the lab is done.  For some of the labs, we’d write up a full lab report where you write a complete hypothesis and a complete list of supplies and a complete list of steps taken and a list of conclusions, etc. 

But for other labs, we’d simply fill out a one page paper with the name of the lab and a brief sketch of what happened, without the hypothesis or complete list of supplies and step by step list, etc.  

So, I would not count things that were worksheet based as labs.  That’s not what we did.  (Insert smilie here.)

Makes sense, sorry. Also sounds very do able. I think I have suppressed, horrific memories of the lab write-up experience. If I can get beyond that, your description of the labs sounds good. 

How did you choose the labs? Did you try to match them to the textbook as you worked through it?

Did you buy the kit? I'm thinking that would be the easiest way to go, and with three students it isn't horribly expensive (although two of the students are mine)

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1 hour ago, SusanC said:

Makes sense, sorry. Also sounds very do able. I think I have suppressed, horrific memories of the lab write-up experience. If I can get beyond that, your description of the labs sounds good. 

How did you choose the labs? Did you try to match them to the textbook as you worked through it?

Did you buy the kit? I'm thinking that would be the easiest way to go, and with three students it isn't horribly expensive (although two of the students are mine)

 

The Writing of the Lab Reports is a painful experience around here.  As the adult, it seems easy to me now, but my student hates doing it and it takes him forever.  So, I get it.  

I chose the labs by matching them up to our book.  I used ck12 which is a free open source curriculum that didn’t have labs in it.  It was very easy to match up the concepts to the labs.  

I did buy the kit.  I also bought a refurbished microscope. 

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A "lab" is not a unit of work, as some labs take much longer to complete than others.

My rule of thumb is that a science class should be 10 to 30 percent of the hours on labs, with the 10 percent being very typical and the 30 percent for families who want to be very hands-on. 

Don't turn 9th grade labs into essay assignments. A freshman lab report may be filling in a worksheet already geared towards the specific lab, and working towards more "blanks" to be filled in independently over time.  By senior year, a lab report starts with a blank sheet of paper, but you get there over time. 

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23 minutes ago, JanetC said:

A "lab" is not a unit of work, as some labs take much longer to complete than others.

My rule of thumb is that a science class should be 10 to 30 percent of the hours on labs, with the 10 percent being very typical and the 30 percent for families who want to be very hands-on. 

Don't turn 9th grade labs into essay assignments. A freshman lab report may be filling in a worksheet already geared towards the specific lab, and working towards more "blanks" to be filled in independently over time.  By senior year, a lab report starts with a blank sheet of paper, but you get there over time. 

Thanks, this is a helpful rule of thumb. I also appreciate the point that the students will grow into lab writing over time. I'm terrible about thinking that How Things Are is how they will always be. I'm sometimes still surprised that everybody has potty-trained. Progress happens!

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46 minutes ago, JanetC said:

A "lab" is not a unit of work, as some labs take much longer to complete than others.

My rule of thumb is that a science class should be 10 to 30 percent of the hours on labs, with the 10 percent being very typical and the 30 percent for families who want to be very hands-on. 

Don't turn 9th grade labs into essay assignments. A freshman lab report may be filling in a worksheet already geared towards the specific lab, and working towards more "blanks" to be filled in independently over time.  By senior year, a lab report starts with a blank sheet of paper, but you get there over time. 

 

Yes, I agree that you build up to full reports in some way.  We did two full reports in biology last year on our own. I wasn’t going to, except that some hivers who work with college students said that it’s not as easy to learn to do a lab report as you’d think, so it’s a good idea to get them started in high school.  So I figured 2 reports would be good.  My son struggled to do them, but I helped him along.

This year, we semi-outsourced science (chem) and the teacher recommends 6 lab reports.  So, we figured we’d try for the 6.  For all the other labs, he just fills out a little worksheet thing.  The first 4 full lab reports this year took a long time, but we kept at it.  The 5th went smoother.  And I have to say this conversation is timely, because he started his 6th lab report yesterday and finished it this morning and just sent it to his teacher.  This lab report went much smoother than all the others.  It’s like it finally clicked in his head how it works. 

OP, it sounds like your kids will be in 8th next year.  If so, then you don’t really need to worry about it unless you’re going to count it on a transcript or something.  If you’re going to have a transcript or course description for colleges that say a lab course, then you’ll want a few lab reports in there eventually before they’re done high school.  But middle school is different.

(I kinda wish I’d never mentioned the lab reports.  I was just kinda tossing that out there because I was barking up the wrong tree and thought the OP would think that since we did 48 labs this year we did 48 lab reports, but we didn’t.  We only did 6. I was jumping ahead in the conversation and just confused everything.  I was trying to reassure her that she doesn’t need a billion reports, but ended up making it sound like she does need a bunch of lab reports.)

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AP Biology requires that students spend 25% of class time on lab work, which works out to roughly 35+ hours. For a typical high school biology class, 20+ hours sounds reasonable to me, whether that works out to 10 or 20 labs. 

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40 minutes ago, Garga said:

 

Yes, I agree that you build up to full reports in some way.  We did two full reports in biology last year on our own. I wasn’t going to, except that some hivers who work with college students said that it’s not as easy to learn to do a lab report as you’d think, so it’s a good idea to get them started in high school.  So I figured 2 reports would be good.  My son struggled to do them, but I helped him along.

This year, we semi-outsourced science (chem) and the teacher recommends 6 lab reports.  So, we figured we’d try for the 6.  For all the other labs, he just fills out a little worksheet thing.  The first 4 full lab reports this year took a long time, but we kept at it.  The 5th went smoother.  And I have to say this conversation is timely, because he started his 6th lab report yesterday and finished it this morning and just sent it to his teacher.  This lab report went much smoother than all the others.  It’s like it finally clicked in his head how it works. 

OP, it sounds like your kids will be in 8th next year.  If so, then you don’t really need to worry about it unless you’re going to count it on a transcript or something.  If you’re going to have a transcript or course description for colleges that say a lab course, then you’ll want a few lab reports in there eventually before they’re done high school.  But middle school is different.

(I kinda wish I’d never mentioned the lab reports.  I was just kinda tossing that out there because I was barking up the wrong tree and thought the OP would think that since we did 48 labs this year we did 48 lab reports, but we didn’t.  We only did 6. I was jumping ahead in the conversation and just confused everything.  I was trying to reassure her that she doesn’t need a billion reports, but ended up making it sound like she does need a bunch of lab reports.)

No, that was all good stuff to hear! I'm such a newbie to high school and college requirements. I did go to high school and college but i feel like I don't remember anything relevant and it was so long ago.

In fairness to you, my post was vague because although it is 8th grade I would like the class to be able to count for high school if needed (and if they are actually capable of that level of work). That said, I have no plans to graduate them early, I just want to leave room for depth of studies later (maybe AP Bio?), or non-standard classes if they develop a specific interest (nematodes for a year!)

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7 hours ago, SusanC said:

Thanks!

I guess there are more labs going on than I expected.  Perhaps my image of what a lab is has been too narrow. I would not have thought to count things that looked worksheet based. Garga's post is helping me understand better what constitutes a lab.  It could also be that I am not excited about doing labs and was hoping to do a minimum!

I wasn't planning on this being a lab course at all, so perhaps any labs would just be a bonus. The actual class that they are enrolled in will likely also have some labs (using the broader definition). I guess it isn't a big deal. We can just move forward and I can decide later whether to call it "with Lab" or not. Clearly I need to up my expectations on the number of labs if I want to use that designation, though.

 

Just explaining what I meant on "worksheets" style of labs in my post.  In biology, I'd consider learning how to use a biological key a "worksheet style of lab activity".  I would consider the kind of labs in biology class where you record the ear lobe shape (attached or free) and do the genetics things, and those pundit squares as "worksheet style of lab activity".  In the table of contents I shared, some of the things called "experiments" fall into that category.   Other experiments were microscope, dissections, field work (such as observation and recording results -- I almost consider that notebooking).   Other people would faint and be shocked and horrified to call that "lab" but just call it homework or something similar.

now with chem and physics: I can't remember "worksheet" based ones.  But biology, yes. I did them .and it wasn't a disaster for my oldest.

In terms of "lab reports" part of the discussion, we didn't do tons of those either.  Oldest and middle kept lab notebooks.  But for formal report, it was about 2 a year? maybe 3?  It was enough that my oldest learned the mantra:  Read the Syllabus, Follow the lab template.  and you know what happened?  When she got to freshman year in physics, it had all been enough to do well. She got A freshman year.  (for context: She's 9 days from graduating summa cum laude in electrical engineering, computer science and math...  so she never needed biology in college. but did lots of physics and one chem. )  read the syllabus. follow the template.   Middle gal has learning disabilities and other issues. so she took CLEP exam in biology to get out of the science gen ed.  LOL  you just never knew.

all of that to say, we were never the most over the top rigor type of homeschoolers.  We weren't the lazy ones either. And yet, oldest (who clearly is academically gifted) learned enough in high school and was able to step it up.  Our lab reports were not that big of an ordeal either.  maybe 2 very formal per year.  most were simple summaries of what she did and what she learned.

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We did Apologia and a lot of the labs are more what I would call demonstrations.

The labs that I considered to be "real" labs and that were particularly valuable were the genetic Punnett square ones, the microscope labs (basically looking at cool stuff and sketching it), and the dissections. So probably about 1 or 2 every 2 weeks.

The labs reports I required for biology were really just a basic writeup of what they observed. So far the complaint I've received most from my kids is that, "Biology isn't supposed to be art, Mom!" LOL

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On 5/3/2018 at 8:13 AM, Garga said:

 

Our biology labs were all from the Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments, and we did about one of those labs per week.

Do you know if there is a teacher's guide with answers for this? I've gone through it, but I'm not sure if I feel confident leading a few kids in these labs.

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18 minutes ago, MAMommy said:

Do you know if there is a teacher's guide with answers for this? I've gone through it, but I'm not sure if I feel confident leading a few kids in these labs.

 

There isn't a teacher's guide that I know of, but there is a CD with the answers to the questions for the labs.  It comes with the kit OR you can buy it separately from the kit, if you don't buy the kit.  Here's the website where you can buy the kit with the CD, or buy the CD separately for $29.  

Before doing the labs, I used to carefully read over them and distill down exactly what I wanted to point out/discuss with my student.  I would use a highlighter and jot notes in the margin.  Now that I think about it, it might have been smart to use the PDF to cut and paste the parts I wanted to use and to type in my own notes.

It was a lot of prep for me as the teacher for these labs, making sure I understood what to do in them and gauging how long they'd take.  I did it because I felt they had value for us, but that might not be the case for you with a group of kids.  It's hard to tell.  The labs did work and my son very much enjoyed puttering around in his lab doing them.  But at the same time, these were not open and go labs for me as teacher.  I had to get myself up to speed on how to present them ahead of time.

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22 minutes ago, Garga said:

 

There isn't a teacher's guide that I know of, but there is a CD with the answers to the questions for the labs.  It comes with the kit OR you can buy it separately from the kit, if you don't buy the kit.  Here's the website where you can buy the kit with the CD, or buy the CD separately for $29.  

Before doing the labs, I used to carefully read over them and distill down exactly what I wanted to point out/discuss with my student.  I would use a highlighter and jot notes in the margin.  Now that I think about it, it might have been smart to use the PDF to cut and paste the parts I wanted to use and to type in my own notes.

It was a lot of prep for me as the teacher for these labs, making sure I understood what to do in them and gauging how long they'd take.  I did it because I felt they had value for us, but that might not be the case for you with a group of kids.  It's hard to tell.  The labs did work and my son very much enjoyed puttering around in his lab doing them.  But at the same time, these were not open and go labs for me as teacher.  I had to get myself up to speed on how to present them ahead of time.

Thanks so much, Garga.

I feel the same way. I want a solid experience for the kids I'm teaching, but I also work 30 hours/week so any additional help makes a big difference. I'll check out the CD.

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27 minutes ago, Garga said:

 

There isn't a teacher's guide that I know of, but there is a CD with the answers to the questions for the labs.  It comes with the kit OR you can buy it separately from the kit, if you don't buy the kit.  Here's the website where you can buy the kit with the CD, or buy the CD separately for $29.  

Before doing the labs, I used to carefully read over them and distill down exactly what I wanted to point out/discuss with my student.  I would use a highlighter and jot notes in the margin.  Now that I think about it, it might have been smart to use the PDF to cut and paste the parts I wanted to use and to type in my own notes.

It was a lot of prep for me as the teacher for these labs, making sure I understood what to do in them and gauging how long they'd take.  I did it because I felt they had value for us, but that might not be the case for you with a group of kids.  It's hard to tell.  The labs did work and my son very much enjoyed puttering around in his lab doing them.  But at the same time, these were not open and go labs for me as teacher.  I had to get myself up to speed on how to present them ahead of time.

Thanks, Garga. This sounds like the approach i took to elementary/middle science, so I imagine it is what I would do for the biology labs also.  I hadn't been thinking about that step yet, so it is a helpful reminder to have it spelled out. I'll have to block out some time this summer to do some of that work.

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The definition of 'lab' isn't standard.  When I took and taught college biology labs (which were fairly consistent across 3 colleges in 3 different states), there were weeks that there was nothing that most people would think of as 'lab'.  During genetics, they might work problem sets in groups, for instance.  Several weeks were spent learning to use the measurement equipment (graduated cylinders, etc) and do metric conversions.  During mitosis, students might look at mitotic cells under a microscope and then simulate mitosis using pipe cleaners or beads.  The labs would group several activities together and include problems to work on.  If each activity was done independently, then there would be many labs, and if you counted only doing experiments, then there were very few labs - either way, there were 15 'lab classes' each semester.  

I have my students do an ecology lab that they design themselves.  I want to make sure that they have a control and can make a graph of the data, and they usually do something involving growing seeds under different conditions.  Many books also include a biological magnification experiment in the ecology section.  In that experiment, students use small beads and a series of paper cups with different sized holes.  The idea is to simulate how an animal at the top of the food chain can end up accumulating a lot of chemicals (like mercury).  The plant lab takes planning, an hour to set up, monitoring over 2 weeks, and a lab report.  The second lab takes 10 minutes.  They are both valid ways for students to learn, but they aren't equivalent labs.  Doing even 10 labs like the first one would take a huge amount of time, while students could do a couple of shorter ones each week.  I tend to do labs about once/month, with some taking 2 hours of class, ecology being done at home, and some units involving one class period dedicated to doing several 'stations' where students do a different hands-on activity at each table.  

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