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Day in the Lab

Monday, March 31, 2008

Young scientists from Holyoke, Springfield and Chicopee participated in hands-on workshops facilitated by students, faculty and staff who work in the sciences at Hampshire when the college hosted its 22nd Annual Day in the Lab for Urban Middle School Students on November 16. Approximately 120 middle school students from around the Pioneer Valley built and destroyed stream dams, wrote their own computer programs, engaged in forensic anthropology, conducted chemistry experiments and created their own lotions.

Students in grades 6, 7 and 8 attended from Peck Middle School in Holyoke, Kennedy Middle School in Springfield and Bellamy and Fairview Middle Schools in Chicopee.

Day in the Lab was created 22 years ago in response to research indicating that students often lose interest in the sciences during the middle school years. This program is especially critical in the current educational climate of scarce resources and budget cutbacks. Day in the Lab gives urban students a rare opportunity to work with college students in a resource-rich science environment that provides lots of hands-on learning experience.

Day in the Lab leaders choose their lab topics based on individual interests and expertise, and their lab designs are based on the same principles as introductory science courses at Hampshire College. Each lab is specifically designed to develop inquiry skills by motivating students to ask questions and encouraging them to take an active role in their own learning.

The intention of this day is to empower young people of all ages to see that science is an exploration of the world around them, and that becoming a scientist is well within their grasp as a career choice. In giving these students access to advanced scientific equipment, student mentors and hands-on activities designed to stimulate questions and critical thinking, this unique event has the potential to increase not only student excitement about science but their achievement in it as well.

The program provides a fun, non-threatening environment for middle school students to enjoy learning science, and for Hampshire students to gain experience working with young people. By offering urban students exposure to a wide range of scientific topics and styles of learning, Hampshire hopes that they will be encouraged to continue actively participating in science throughout their education.

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