Making a Science Lab Notebook

This method of writing up an experiment has been used in colleges for years and gives the student practice in valuable communication skills.  When I teach science, I ask my students to get a black and white speckled composition type notebook with graph paper in it.  The instructions below apply to any lab science course for completing a science notebook.  You may also record your data in your science notebook, but keep it separate (perhaps in a few preceding pages) from the below information, which is a summary of the scientific method as it pertains to your experiment. 

  1. On the first page of the notebook, write your name, course title, and year.  
  2. On the next page, write “Table of Contents” at the top of the page.
  3. Number the pages of the notebook in the bottom outside corners.
  4. As you complete experiments, record on the Table of Contents page the title of the experiment and the page upon which it is found.
  5. Skipping two pages after the Table of Contents, begin with Experiment One
  6. On the left hand page, write the title of the experiment, the date, and the problem or question you are attempting to solve.  
  7. Next, spell out your hypothesis of what might happen.
  8. Include a list of materials.
  9. List the procedures in the experiment.  Reference your lab manual.
  10. The observations step is next; write details of the experiment including everything you noticed about what happened.  
  11. The last step is the conclusion.  This is where you will try to answer the question “why did the experiment happen the way it did?  I like to see complete conclusions.  
  12. Some lab experiments require additional steps like calculations, or results, or sources of error.  
  13. The signature at the bottom of the page certifies that you truly did all of the above yourself.  
  14. If there are any questions about the experiment required by the lab manual, I have the student write the answers to those questions after the conclusion step.  
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High School Biology options

You’re probably familiar with ABeka, Bob Jones, Apologia, but have you considered these other options for high school biology?  Julie Shepherd Knapp at the Homeschool Diner puts together this concise listing to get you thinking about all the options available to you.

If you are ready to think outside the box, considering online methods, separate books and lab manuals, piecing together a curriculum using college textbooks and AP courses, this is a great place to start.  There are also a great many complete packages available to the homeschooler today.  Start here to plan your biology curriculum for your high schooler next year.

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What Every Chemistry Student Should Know

This is a list of topics in chemistry.  If, at the end of the chemistry course, a high school student knows and understands at least these things, he/she has done well and is prepared for the freshman college chemistry course.  This is not a comprehensive list of a high school course set of objectives, but a list of basics upon which a student may build.   The use of  “etc” means that the needed concepts are not all listed.  They may be found in the student’s textbook.

  1. Memorize the common chemical symbols and atomic weights   The easiest way to do this is through oral drill.
  2. Know your way around the periodic table.  Why is the table designed the way it is?  What does it say about the elements, groups and periods, and the sequence of adding electrons?  Know some of the characteristics of the groups, periods and what causes them.
  3. Know the terms for the fundamental building blocks of matter.  Parts of atoms, forces of matter and energy, ions, isotopes, etc.  Be able to explain how they relate to each other.
  4. Know the electron orbital concepts and be able to discuss the ideas of electron position, energy absorption, energy and light emission, bonding, valences, energy states, etc.
  5. Know the characteristics for the three states of matter and how they relate to the kinetic theory.  Know the energy requirements of changing states.
  6. Memorize the types of reactions and be able to recognize them.  Be able to predict products given the reactants.
  7. Know the basics of acid-base reactions. pH, ions. titration, indicators, etc.
  8. Know the physical and chemical characteristics of the most common elements and compounds.  A few of these are carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, chlorine, metals, and hydrogen.
  9. Know something about the history of chemistry and how humans started discovering the complexities of  the world about us.
  10. Know about the functions of metallurgy and how elements are purified and controlled so that the environment is not damaged.
  11. Know how to produce and retain certain gases, including water-soluble gases.
  12. Know the gas laws and be able to apply them to everyday life. 
  13. Understand the concepts of the Avogadro Constant and molarity.
  14. Know the principles of heat transfer, measurement, calories, etc.  Be able to work problems using these concepts.
  15. Be able to balance chemical equations, including arrows showing direction of reaction and precipitant or gas formation, heat or light radiation or requirements.
  16. Know techniques for filtration, distillation, evaporation, and condensation.
  17. Be able to identify common laboratory equipment.  Demonstrate the proper cleaning and care of equipment.
  18. Practice observation, record-keeping and communication skills by writing a good laboratory notebook.
  19. Be able to accurately follow the instructions in the writing of the laboratory report.  The data must be written in ink for the report, or printed with the computer.
  20. Know and use good safety practices.
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