The Lower School science lab is a place of curiosity, experimentation, and discovery. Classes come to the lab in half classes, creating the opportunity for hands-on science activities in small groups. But, the science lab is also a place of less formal visits. Students come into the lab in the mornings for a variety of reasons. For some, a visit with the chinchillas, hedgehog, and turtles is the top priority. For others, playing with some of the science-related materials and games is the goal. There are several who choose to read a science themed book or magazine during their morning visit. However, for many, it’s the share table that draws them to the science lab in the morning before the school day begins.
Students are encouraged to be keen observers of the world around them. As they come across interesting science-related treasures, they bring them to display on the share table. The children take on this challenge with great enthusiasm, and never disappoint with all of the remarkable and fascinating objects they proudly bring to the table. By the end of last school year, the share table was overflowing with birds’ nests, snake skins, insects, animal bones, rocks and fossils, among other things. These items represented the countless conversations, the questions that sent us to books and websites to find out more, and the natural love of learning and discovery our students possess.
Over the summer, I collected a few items to place on the table to get the sharing started for the new school year. When the science lab was all ready for the students to walk through the door on the first day of school, the share table contained a bird nest, a few turtle carapaces, an interesting rock or two, some animal bones left from last year, and a few preserved insects. As the children arrived, they grabbed the magnifying glasses and began examining the items, asking questions, and making comments about the different objects. Not only that, they came with items ready to share! I wasn’t the only one who was constantly on the look out over the summer. I was very happy to see that the children had kept that curiosity alive throughout the break as well.
By the end of the first week of school, our young scientists have added numerous cicada shells, a snake skeleton found on a summer vacation, several rocks, part of a bush full of caterpillars in various stages of forming a chrysalis, and a small animal’s jawbone found in a creek. Each of these items is priceless because of its ability to spark questions, conversation, and motivation to find out more.
Because students leave their discoveries in the science lab, many children benefit from the opportunity to explore and learn about the objects. Conversations about the objects begin to pop up in the lunchroom, during recess, and at the dinner table. The share table has become something that links the Lower School community in curious, thoughtful conversation. I can’t wait to see the next scientific treasure pulled out of a pocket, wrapped up in a tissue, or in a jar poked with holes!