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How many of your student's sciences must contain a lab component?


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We will be doing biology next year (9th grade), with a full year of labs. (We bought a microscope, will make slides, will do many dissections, etc., the whole shebang. We're excited; biology is our favorite science!)

That said, I recently took a free Lee Binz webinar about planning high school and she said that only one of your sciences must have a lab. Is this accurate? (For reference, my student is an aspiring art major, so not an aspiring STEM or math major.) We enjoy science! But it's not a passion for our family the way other subjects are, so I want to be mindful of where we devote our energy academically. My daughter is planning on doing four years of high school science, and she has already expressed interest in a lab-based botany class at the community college she'd like to take as a junior or senior, but if we could tackle chemistry and/or physics (or other science) as mostly a text-based pursuit, that could free her up her time.... 

I'd love clarification on this. Thanks!

 

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I suppose it depends on your state homeschool laws and the colleges you apply to.  Both my kids who have applied to colleges and gotten into selective and highly selective colleges have had at least 3 labs.  My state requires 2.  I require 3.. Ds did 3 and then a non-lab astronomy class senior year.  Dd did 4 lab sciences out of choice.  Next ds and dd will have at least 4 bc they are both headed in STEM directions (my oldest 2 headed in humanities areas.)

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Eyeroll to that advice. I hate when homeschool people encourage homeschoolers to believe that they only have to do some really low minimum.

I'd say the most common state level requirement and college recommendation/requirement is two lab sciences. But 3 is certainly not unheard of. Not every school says specifically. I'm sure some people have gotten into colleges without any lab sciences. There is no universal guideline.

Whenever you're making your decisions about these things, you have to ask yourself, what will my kid be up against when they apply. If you have a student who isn't into STEM and you've got a student applying for a humanities program or to a small liberal arts school or the like, then you have to think, will the vast majority of students have more than a single year of lab science? And the answer is yes, they will. So then unless you're sure you're looking at schools that take the majority of applicants, then your application will be in a much stronger place if you have that too, regardless of requirements or recommendations from the school. Those are a floor, not a ceiling. Of course, you don't have to go beyond what most students will have if it's not your thing. And stellar coursework in other areas can always make up for it so you have to think about how painful will this requirement be and how competitive are the schools the kid wants.

Edited by Farrar
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The time I looked at this I think our state flagship recommended three lab sciences but it has been awhile so I’m not positive. I think when applying to those big schools it is good to clearly hit all the boxes. I don’t think homeschoolers should assume they will get a holistic review that takes into account that the student is an art major. I think those big schools have work study kids doing the first pass on application requirements and I wouldn’t want to count on them looking deeply at student goals or the rest of an application. I want our transcripts to clearly pass through the first screening they come across. So I would have three sciences “with lab”. 
 

That said, “with lab” is a very open description. It doesn’t say number of labs or real vs virtual, etc. I would feel much more comfortable adding a lab component even if it was not the highest quality lab possible. A couple simple live labs, a few virtual, one or two really well written lab reports and I think you can say “with lab” and it is worth the time and effort. It doesn’t have to be ten live labs with full reports to be “with lab”.
 

Our local Christian colleges surely would be fine with one lab. So it depends on goals. I wouldn’t go that way for competitive schools because obviously one lab science is not competitive. I wouldn’t go that way for large schools because they just aren’t going to spend that much time holistically reviewing each application. 

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I had done some research for a STEM major for my oldest son and it really varied by the college. One of the colleges I looked at recommends four sciences with lab. I am sure that is somewhat unusual, but I don't recall any that required only one with lab. That said, I wasn't looking at humanities majors.

Edited by cintinative
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Thanks so much; I appreciate the insight! (That's why I wanted clarification; the recommendation seemed off to me.) 

I appreciate the reminder, too, that not every year's lab needs to be of the same intensity to count. I think that mindset will work for us. We are all-in with biology, but can be less devoted to the chemistry or physics labs and still do adequate/complete work in those areas. (I am in no way trying to short-change my daughter! There are just SO MANY things she wants to cram into her high school plan--in the best way possible--so I'm trying to think creatively about piecing it all together.) 

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Our state and umbrella schools seem to require 3 sciences, with either 2 or 3 having labs.  But, lab courses don't need a crazy number of labs.  And, having taught and TA'd freshmen college lab classes in biology...not every week's lab is an experiment.  Some labs are hands-on modeling of a process (using pipe cleaners or bead strings to model mitosis and meiosis, coupled with building or studying a 3D DNA model to learn about base-pairing and what antiparallel means), some involve working problem sets (genetics problems, unit conversion calculations), some involve learning to use equipment (micropipettes, pipet bulbs...it is actually a state standard that students learn to use a triple beam balance), and then some are stereotypical 'Make a hypothesis and do an experiment' labs.  

When I teach Bio 2 at co-op, we sometimes do fun labs that don't feel like labs - if we read 'The Brain' we do some of the memory experiments, and if we talk about the microbiome then we get petri plates and see what we can culture from various products claiming to have 'live cultures'.  

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My DD had at least 3 Science courses with labs: Biology and then Chemistry and then Physics. Physics was the most expensive and required two (2) Lab Kits.  She also took Astronomy and I don't think that had a Lab component to it. 

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49 minutes ago, Lanny said:

.  She also took Astronomy and I don't think that had a Lab component to it. 

Astronomy has labs. It can be as simple as stargazing while schools are virtual. Example of a lab description pre-Covid.

”A hands-on approach to the scientific method, using astronomical data and equipment. Divided into small lab groups, students will do experiments and observing projects about a range of astronomical topics, including the phases of the Moon, the reasons for the seasons, the rotation, revolution, and sphericity of the Earth, and the scale and composition of astronomical objects. Students will carry out observations of the sky, visit the observatory, and use a portable telescope to communicate about astronomy with other students and the public.”

For the OP, public schools here do expect science every year from 9th to 11th. However that includes botany, astronomy, anatomy & physiology as well as physics, chemistry and biology. Some schools offer ecology as well. Our state universities requires two as the minimum.

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As above posters say, it totally depends on the college. But I've never seen a college only want 1 lab science.

What I've seen as the general admission requirements for all students (STEM or non-STEM), for non-selective/competitive schools:
- 2 sciences, with labs
- 3 sciences, 2 of which are lab sciences
- 3 sciences, with labs

We did labs with all of our science credits to be on the safe side, with 2 DSs that were not headed (at that time) towards STEM-based fields. It's really not as difficult as you might think to include 6-10 labs to go with your science textbook, and -- voila! -- you have a lab science. 😉 

Edited by Lori D.
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3 hours ago, EKT said:

 

I appreciate the reminder, too, that not every year's lab needs to be of the same intensity to count. I think that mindset will work for us. We are all-in with biology, but can be less devoted to the chemistry or physics labs and still do adequate/complete work in those areas. 

 

2 hours ago, Lori D. said:

We did labs with all of our science credits to be on the safe side, with 2 DSs that were not headed (at that time) towards STEM-based fields. It's really not as difficult as you might think to include 6-10 labs to go with your science textbook, and -- voila! -- you have a lab science. 😉 

The one recommendation my kids received from their outsourced science teachers was to hold on to their lab write ups. The community college my kids are doing dual enrollment in did put a disclaimer that they might ask for lab notebooks to give credit based on AP exams for sciences (Bio, Chem, Physics, EnvSci).

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6 hours ago, Arcadia said:

 

The one recommendation my kids received from their outsourced science teachers was to hold on to their lab write ups. The community college my kids are doing dual enrollment in did put a disclaimer that they might ask for lab notebooks to give credit based on AP exams for sciences (Bio, Chem, Physics, EnvSci).

Thanks for this tip! (I definitely intend to hold onto and keep careful track of all our coursework in all subjects!)

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I didn’t take any science classes in high school that didn’t have a lab. (To clarify, I took 4 years of science.) There are some nice books of high school labs. I don’t think you need to do anything that’s beyond what you can do at home. 

Edited by stripe
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So, I have an artsy, hates-math, creative writing daughter who is a senior this year. We did conceptual physics with labs, Guest Hollow's high school chemistry (the more Kitchen chem version), and Earth Science (no labs) for 9th-11th. Then, dd took DE meteorology over the (Covid-19) summer that had way more math than she preferred and specifically had "labs" included. That was 4 credits of science & I thought she was done. But she's taking DE Zoology now with lab. So my least sciency kid now has more high school science credits With Labs than her STEM-major older sister.

Just to say that you never know how it will turn out when your kid is just starting high school. She still lives to do creative art stuff, BTW, but the DE classes will go toward her planned major.

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I cannot imagine Chemistry or Biology without labs,  so minimum 2?  We did Earth Science this year, and I don't consider our projects to be actual labs, more like demonstrations and making models.  You should check the colleges you are interested in.  I remember DD1 freshman year I called and asked exactly what I would be required to show as proof for our labs- I was a little paranoid I would ruin her chances.  Answer was usually nothing- they would just ask me.  I did list a lot of them in the course descriptions- which no one ended up wanting to read.  We were only looking at state schools, though, not the Ivins or anything super-competitive

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