Lab Expectations for the Natural Science Year I course
Labs are not required for completion of the course itself; you may do as many or as few as you like. However, you must complete 18 lab assignments to receive lab credit for the course. This credit is primarily useful when applying to those colleges which recommend at least one year of lab science for admission. All labs for credit must be completed by the close of the term unless special arrangements are made.
Many lab assignments will be available from the web site at the start of the session; several will be added through the course of the year. Most labs will be associated with specific topics, and you are encouraged to complete the lab and send in the report during the assignment period. If necessary, you may make arrangements to complete the labs out of sequence if you have trouble obtaining equipment.
For safety reasons, both you and your parents must read the safety procedures before starting the lab sequence. Your parents must sign and send a copy of the lab permission letter to me before I can accept any lab reports from you for credit.
Most lab activities for this course are demonstrations which do not require extensive measurements but rather careful, direct observation. I have tried to design enough activities which depend only common household materials that any student can complete the lab requirement without purchasing specialized equipment. Some labs do require extra equipment or supplies; remember to check the lab and determine whether you will need any of the following in order to complete it.
- Microscope. Good microscopes are expensive, and I know not everyone is in a position to buy one. If you can do so, get one which has good optics over one with high magnification. For our purposes, 100-120X is sufficient to identify cell structures. Radio Shack sells a "field" microscope with 100X magnification for under $15; it comes with a stand, battery-powered light and several plastic well-slides. If you want better optics and more features, you might still be able to get a bargain by checking to see if a local college is replacing its older microscopes and selling them off. If you are unable to purchase a microscope, check the local school district and see if they will loan you one. If you are really adventurous, you may be able to make a microscope sufficient for our purposes.
- Field microscope You should have a magnifying glass you can take into the field for viewing specimens you cannot bring home. A good magnifier of 5X to 30X is sufficient.
- Dissection kit. Should include scalpel, tweezers, teaser, and pins. You may also substitute a very sharp, small blade knife for the scalpel.
- Specimens for dissection. You may also procure specimens from the grocery store, or collect them yourself.
- -10 to 110 Centigrade thermometer. Centigrade thermometers are available for under $5 from several mail order suppliers (see link below) and from science museum shops and educational toy stores.
- Scale capable of measuring mass in grams or ounces. A kitchen scale may be adequate.
- Hand lens. A magnifying glass, such as a reading glass, will be adequate.
- Telescope or binoculars. Again, use what is available. The better your equipment, the more detail you will see, but expensive equipment is not required to achieve the purpose of the astronomy topic labs.
- Flask, beaker, and test tubes. Some of the chemistry topic labs are easier if you use graduated (marked with measurements) glass equipment, but in all cases, you can substitute small glass jars and use kitchen measuring equipment.
- Magnets. Any magnet strong enough to lift a needle will work. Refrigerator magnets are generally not suitable, because their polarity lies across their thinnest dimension, making it hard to position them. You may want to acquire a small magnet from an educational or science hobby store.
Equipment and Materials Sources for Science Labs
Lab equipment may be borrowed from schools or purchased. Sometimes local college bookstores or medical schools carry microscopes and dissection equipment. Science supplies are often available from educational toy stores and science museums. You may also want to check my growing list of mail order suppliers.
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