By Francesca Vidal
A crucial aspect of STEM is being able to apply classroom knowledge to real-world applications, and STEM labs are the perfect opportunity for students to do so. Many jobs in the 21st century, regardless if they are related to STEM, require workers to apply concepts to abstract situations. Through labs, students can achieve a deeper understanding of the topic they are learning, be able to develop crucial problem-solving and teamwork skills and gain hands-on learning experiences.
Labs allow students to develop soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and more. Sometimes, during a lab, students can encounter a challenge that will cause them to rethink their procedure. Being able to recognize the mistake that was made and take the initiative to solve the problem is important for success in a lab—even if that means starting over. Labs require students to work together to ensure the experiment is being carried out safely, effectively, and promptly. Students are expected to communicate their ideas, listen to others, and explain the conclusions they’ve made to their peers during and after the lab. In addition, students learn to become focused and more analytical as many labs require precise skills and measurements. Labs, especially when students are exposed to them at a young age, help students develop skills that will be crucial for them in the future.
Through labs, students can explore a wide range of science topics (like chemistry, biology, physics, and astronomy) through hands-on learning. Students can engagingly learn about science instead of sitting in a classroom and memorizing facts; they can apply the knowledge they learn to real-world applications. This makes science an interactive experience for kids and will not only increase their engagement in the subject, but also increase the likelihood of them pursuing a career in STEM, or at least not causing them to shy away from the subject when they are older. Hands-on learning also allows students to learn how to correctly use laboratory instruments—a skill that is important for students wanting to pursue a career in research or conduct research in college.
Labs allow students to gain a deeper understanding of the material. In labs, it is important to reduce the number of factors that can cause discrepancies in the data like temperature, humility, and wind resistance. Allowing students to explore different ways to mimic a controlled environment allows them to think outside the box and learn from their mistakes. They are also able to see how the experimental data differs from the accepted data and formula ideas on what could have led to errors in the lab. Mistakes are very valuable lessons for students as they are often very hard to forget, ensuring that students do not create the same error on exams or in other applications.
STEM labs are very beneficial to students as they help build soft skills, allow students to learn engagingly, and strengthen students’ understanding of different science topics. Whether it be creating a baking soda volcano or finding the rate of reaction of sodium thiosulfate, labs are great learning tools for students of all ages to explore.
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