Managing stress in the HS Labs

"I want to allow them to experience that stress and get over it. Because that is where change happens. So, I’m always there present, next to them, but I’ll never make decisions for them. And then through this interaction they actually get more comfortable, they get more confident and then they go on and do it on their own."

Christina Makarona, High School Lab technician, talks about how she and the teachers guide students through their anxiety and stress while conducting experiments. Christina aknowledges the role of group work in the lab as the initial insecurity is mediated by being able to share ideas with peers. And the importance of creating moments for students to test and play with a concept to build their confidence.

" It comes up with students of all grades.

So, we have from the 10th graders to the 12th graders. Obviously when they first do something like that [experiment] in 10th grade, things are much more controlled, you are there with them. They basically do a trial. They still have to design their own thing, they still have to come in and try and get over that initial nervousness. But this is guided by the teacher. As they go into 11 grade and they actually choose their subjects this is when we incorporate design labs. So, throughout the year they are asked to do these smaller scale projects, where they have to go in and come up with their own question within a given context and design how they will approach it. This is done in groups because it actually helps alleviate that stress, they can brainstorm, they can bounce ideas off each other. Even if they don’t have complementary knowledge, they all started with the same knowledge, still being there with a peer helps them get over that. And all this leads them into the final grade, during their IA’s they have to do this on their own, be organized, be more risk takers, in the sense of just going in and trying your own thing. The word that I like to use is play. Because it shows the spontaneity of going in and trying out something. Of course what we mean about this is intentional play. So, you don’t just come in and do random things. You have a concept you’re trying to explore but still you’re open to trying out possibilities. And this is where this whole iterative thinking comes into play. I start out with a concept, I try things out, I evaluate what happened, and then I keep doing that. But I always start with this curiosity."

Student working on her Extended Essay

Grade 11 students working on a controlled experiment

"There is a misconception, I think that students have about science, that science is about the things that I know."

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