Labs! They have been the most overwhelming part of my career in chemistry. I felt the least prepared in this area when I began teaching and walked into my first lab as a teacher. Knowing all of the chemicals and equipment were under my care was a bit terrifying. Over a decade later, I am much more comfortable, and yet, labs are still difficult. When I began teaching a new course last year, I was given the lab manual, and so I began using those labs. Among my first thoughts were "Yuck!" and "I know where to get better labs!" and "These poor students!" I started supplementing the lab manual, but I did not want to continue this method as my students have to purchase their manual and I did not want them wasting their money. So, I came up with a solution: Write my own manual. This way I could use labs I liked, my students could spend their money on something they would use, and perhaps I could also impact other sections and help more students and instructors.
It has not been an easy process! I continue to work and strive to write good labs that will work in my laboratory. I think that has always been my challenge. I have used labs in one location that worked well, but in a different situation needed to adapt them or scrap them for something else. Some high school labs work in community college and vice versa and some do not. My brain has certainly been stretched in this process! I have been encouraged so far by my students and my department head. My students have tried one lab and really liked the format and the questions. Similarly, my department head liked the format, questions, and the design for our student population.
I will keep working and see where this leads. If nothing else, I have learned a lot from writing and look forward to using the labs with my students. I'm also excited to discuss them with colleagues this summer at Chem Ed in Georgia. Perhaps I'll see you there!