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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Fair Share for Our Schools: A Multidisciplinary Curriculum: How does school funding affect laboratory science?  
View the Short Video: Campaign for Fiscal Equality: Students Speak Out

Connection/ Motivation: Students will spend time preparing and executing a simple procedure to produce oxygen gas. This procedure will consist of heating potassium chlorate in a test tube in the presence of manganese dioxide powder and collecting the oxygen released under water in a gas collection bottle. The students will be directed to produce the gas, test the procedure outlined in the activity, and test for the presence of oxygen. The key is to have the children use the tools and implements and test for the oxygen with their own hands.

Procedure: After conducting the laboratory activity, discuss their results with the entire class. Seek out answers that relate directly to what they observed when they first produced the oxygen and then tested for the oxygen with a burning wooden splint. Examine the students' understanding of the procedure when they actually perform the activity.

After the discussion, hand out photocopied worksheets that replicate the entire laboratory activity in paper. Have the students review the steps and fill in spaces in a data table from the material given to them by the worksheet's reading. After the students finish the questions related to the lab activity, discuss the two ways to approach the concept with the class and work out the students' feelings about the activity.

Use the activity to present the differences between the two activities. Point out that both ways bring about the same information, but which activity gave them more understanding. Explain that in many high school classrooms in New York State, laboratory science means that students do nothing more than fill out a worksheet that explains what they would do if they had the equipment and the room.

Review the spending gap that exists between communities based on state funding and explain that without the funds for science classes, many schools Substitute "paper labs" for Regents requirements because they do not have the equipment or the space to run proper laboratory sessions.

Also, as an extension, review the different lists given for a proper set up for laboratories in the state. Discuss how funding differences hurt the chances for these laboratories to be developed and used for work. Discuss the reasons why laboratories have to be fully funded to work effectively for the students to advance in science.

Subject Areas:

Grade Levels:  10-11

About the teacher:

James Kopchains is a chemistry teacher at Flushing High School in Queens, teaching primarily 10th and 11th grade students. He has been teaching in the NYC public schools since 1991. Before high school, he taught 8th grade science at I.S. 125 in Sunnyside. James has also participated in the UFT’s Dial-a-Teacher program for the past two years. He is a member of the National Science Teachers Association and the New York Geographical Alliance. Before becoming a teacher, he worked for 12 years as a reporter with the Jersey Journal newspaper in Jersey City. He has been teaching at Flushing High School since 2001.




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