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Redefining the science lab to provide authentic learning contexts

Dominic Tremblay, an education consultant who taught for more than ten years in a French-language school in the Toronto area, invites teachers to review their definition of what a “science laboratory” is. “You can do science anywhere,” he says.

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Over the years, Dominic Tremblay, an educational consultant who taught for more than ten years in a French-language school in the Toronto area, became convinced that "doing science" at school should not be limited to carrying out an experiment in the science laboratory. . Today, he invites teachers to review their definition of what a “science laboratory” is.

"You can do science anywhere and you don't need to buy kits to do it," he says. According to him, the only material that schools should buy is what allows us to make observations that go beyond our five senses or that allow us to take measurements (eg magnifying glass, thermometer, scales).

In the same breath, he deplores the stereotypes related to science that are maintained in popular culture: the image of the slightly crazy elderly scientist, the beaker that makes smoke, the colored mixture that explodes, etc. “The students do not recognize themselves in these images. They present artificial contexts that have no connection with everyday life and in which they have difficulty projecting themselves,” he says.

Everyday science

To do science, all you have to do is explore the world around you, interact with elements of your environment. The forest, the beach, the garden, the garage, the alley, the edge of the water, the shed, the kitchen, the gymnasium, the park and the pond are all places which have the potential to become ", according to him. Scientific phenomena occur there and become pretexts for exploration and learning. It is then a question of arousing the curiosity of the pupils for these.

A child plays with a garden hose. It is related to the physics of fluids, viscosity, pressure, temperature which are all scientific concepts. Similarly, in contact with nature, it is possible to answer questions such as: Why do mushrooms grow on the lawn? How to control the chlorine level of the swimming pool? Why does a rainbow appear after a thunderstorm? How to explain the formation of compost?

Authentic contexts

Throughout a conference as part of the most recent Conscious Entrepreneurial Education Congress (IDEA), he gave a multitude of other examples from everyday life that allow us to approach science in a different way. He also presented a host of places that could become science laboratories for students. Sometimes these can be visited to collect information which will then be analyzed in class. On this occasion, small portable microscopes, as well as the simple application of the magnifying glass on a smart phone or tablet, can make it possible to observe surprising phenomena.

Two bonus apps 

Seek by iNaturalist : an application that allows you to identify plants

Arduino Science Journal : an application that gives access to all the sensors included in your smartphone (gyroscope, accelerometer, sound sensor, brightness, etc.).

In any case, Dominic Tremblay invites teachers to explore the notions of the program that they wish to pass on to their students and to go in search of everyday elements to support them. “It's possible to create authentic contexts that will fuel students' curiosity and give them some freedom to explore science,” he says. In doing so, he is convinced that young people will develop a greater interest in science.

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About the Author

Martine Rioux
Martine Rioux
After studying public communication, Martine worked as a journalist for various publications, before pursuing her career as an interactive communications consultant at La Capitale, a financial group, then at Québec Numérique, an organization she took over as general manager before making the jump. as political advisor in the office of the Minister for Digital Government Transformation. Today she is the online Editor-in-Chief and Special Projects Manager at l'École branchée. Her dream: that everyone has access to technology and can use it as a tool for learning and opening up to the world.

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