The study of science can properly be applied to the laboratory study of the subject. In order to know what the facts of science are, they must be seen and handled directly on the laboratory tables. The text books and other books are not science, but literature. Books are really poor literature at this teaching of science.
While the laboratory method is almost universally approved by the science teachers everywhere, the text book method of teaching in the class rooms prevails in the schools to such an extent that laboratory work is incidental, inefficient and in many cases excluded altogether. The current methods of examination cannot test the laboratory study.
We cannot appreciate the great labor involved in the conduct of good laboratory work and all these affect the reputation of the teacher.
Laboratory teaching develops in the pupils the ability of interpreting what he sees in the light of experience and makes him thus an observer later. The pupils should be taught only the reasoning about the material objects, so that they may not come to hasty and half-hazard conclusions.
Prof. Dewey has pointed out that Laboratory Method has the advantage over classroom teaching in as much as the performance of an experiment entirely diverts the attention of the pupil from the thought that he is studying.
In a classroom the teacher presents a statement from a book according to his conception and then the effort is made by the pupils to reproduce the statement in their own way. In the laboratory the pupil encounters the fact directly without the intermediate steps which involve the teacher a though the later is concerned in assisting the thorough exploration of the fact.
Laboratory work is undoubtedly of value in the cultivation of the mind. It brings the teacher and the taught in close contact and thus the personality of the teacher influences the character of the pupil. In the laboratory the pupil is free to work in accordance with his conception and there is not bondage of authority.
If the teaching in a classroom forms the only continuous and logical feature of the course, the attitude of the students towards the laboratory work will be entirely false.
Efforts should be made to reach some position of equilibrium between the experimental work and the classroom teaching. In that case, the pupil along with the first-hand knowledge in this laboratory may also take advantage of demonstration and lecture work by the teacher.
In order to achieve our aim of science teaching, we should not make one or the other method to be the end in itself, for as we have discussed that with all good points each of the methods of teaching science is incomplete in itself. The classroom work should be adjusted round the laboratory work.
The laboratory method is one of the common methods of science teaching. All schools do not have proper laboratories, what to speak of well-equipped laboratories. No wonder, schools in Indian conditions go' without any laboratory facilities. So, common classrooms are generally used as classroom-cum-science laboratories. Chemicals, apparatus and other materials are brought to the classrooms and under unfavorable conditions; experiments are organized for better science teaching. These are not safe and free from certain dangers.
Activities and experiments are unavoidable assets to a science lesson. Doing things with reacting materials, sharp instruments glass apparatus can be fun; also they can be dangerous. So the science teacher must ensure that work is done in such a way that no accident occurs.
Science teaching and laboratory always go together, and almost in all the methods of teaching, especially in Heuristic, Demonstration and Laboratory method of teaching. Pupils should be taught the dangers inherent in each activity and how to avoid hazards like burns and fire, cuts and broken glasses, heating in test tubes, smelling and testing, dangerous chemicals and gasses, acids and oxidizing materials that go to support combustion or burning.
Of course, many of our daily activities are potentially dangerous, such as lighting a fire, crossing a street, driving an automobile or even a path may result in an accident. But we do not stop doing any of these things just because of the danger involved in each of those activities. The philosophy should also be used in science teaching. Activities in the Laboratory can never be avoided in view of the science teaching in schools, but the pupils should be instructed to avoid accidents.
Tropical Conditions and Laboratories
India is under the tropical climate. In the tropics, there are many causes of trouble in a laboratory, especially during the wet season. Materials perish, papers stick together, instruments rust, lenses develop a fungus which quickly renders them useless and ruins their surfaces.
In addition ants, termites (so called white-ants) and other insects continue their endless work of destruction. Whatever can be kept in an air-tight container should be so kept. Glass-jars with well greased lids should be there for preservation of specimen materials for the laboratory. Laboratory materials should be kept as far as possible in screw-capped bottles, fairly air-tight metal containers by strapping the joint between the lid and the container with insulting tape.
Lenses of microscopes should be kept in a desiccators, when not in use during the rainy season, microscopes, galvanometers and other sensitive instruments should, if possible, be stored in an air-tight cup-board in which a 50-watt electric bulb is kept burning continuously.
Metal instruments, such as screw-gauge, Vernier Callipers, tuning forks etc. should be greased. The screws of retort-stand bases, rings and clamps should be frequently oiled. Scalpels should be smeared with Vaseline and be kept in a case. The metal parts of tools in the Science Laboratory should be rubbed over with an oily rag.
In short, for better teaching of Science the Science Laboratory must be very nicely maintained, no matter whether it is Heuristic, Demonstration of Laboratory Method.