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National Lab Day

May 12th was National Lab Day and while its name seems to mean one day it is actually an ongoing project that has some real value to those of us who teach science. There are some excellent resources and some ongoing connections you will like.

http://www.nationallabday.org/

From there you can sign up for ongoing conversations, connections to scientists, view photos of what others do on National Lab day or even create/join ongoing projects. This year there was an online video project with a hefty cash prize. Organizers intend to have even more contests next year.

The big advantage of this Lab Day is the connection to scientists and techies. Registering at the site will connect you to a world of folks who want to help you. One teacher in New Mexico was paired with an eager scientist from Sandia lab who has hooked her up with some surplus equipment and joined her class for some exceptional SKYPE conferences. I intend to find someone currently working on nanotechnology to help me with a unit about the science of small stuff.

In Iowa there is a Middle School Science Symposium that will bring about 300 middle schoolers (sounds like a Halloween movie this time of year doesn’t it). Now, if you are one of those brave folks who would like to bring together a group like this the site will connect you to the folks who organized this amazing event. They can guide you through the ins and outs of organizing your own symposium from funding possibilities to workshops.

I did take the time to view some of the videos and there are lots of good ideas in them. It is always refreshing to see kids engaged in high quality STEM science talking about what they learned and how they learned it.
In New York City the project is on water quality and sustainability. There is a contest that requires students to clean a water sample but the cool twist is that the kids have to create a public service announcement about water as a sustainable resource. This is so timely in light of the crisis in the Gulf. Besides, I love these kid videos and they are such a hit with parents at open house or conferences.

Lab Day can be any day but May is perfect as the kids are anxious for summer and I always seem to need some nice culminating event to tie the big ideas together. With the help of one of the volunteers from the Lab Day site I think I can organize something that will connect what we do in September to what we do in May. That connection will also help the students hold on to learning that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of years.
I do know that this is the end of the year and simply locking your door at the end of the day requires some sustained effort. It is an excellent time to refresh your teaching spirit and think about next year. I am putting Lab Day on my 2011 calendar now and making sure I have something exciting in the works for National Lab Day 2011.

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