A geography laboratory may be defined as a room in which are contained all written, audio and visual materials pertinent to geographic instructions. The class room itself may be converted into a laboratory if it is relatively self-contained and has within it most of the materials that the teacher and the students will normally be utilizing. The physical arrangement of a class-room thus made is such that book cases, magazine racks, newspaper holders and equipment almirahs surround the room,
The laboratory method of instruction, used so successfully in the natural sciences, has been adopted for application to geography with equal success.
This method seems to have grown out of the directed study. The laboratory method places primary emphasis upon equipment and its use.
So this method presupposes a well equipped room in which the students have access to books, magazines, maps, pictures, drawing and construction material and other type of material which will promote better work. In those situations in which a special room is not available, the teacher of geography can place theses instruments in an ordinary class-room.
The procedure of the laboratory method is similar to that of problem solving approach or a completion of a project or preparation of charts, models and maps or conducting of an experiment to arrive at a general principle.
The teacher and the pupils both perform certain experiments based on scientific principles to make certain concepts of geography clear. The students either individually or in groups make use of the material’ for solving different problems in geography.
Practical work in geography constitutes the laboratory work
The data collected in the field or from a farm or from the statistical reports are transformed into maps and diagrams in the laboratory. After the field observation, the need of laboratory is felt to give concrete shape to the ideas.
The Role of the Teacher
(i) In this method the role of the teacher is that of a guide and helper rather than that of taskmaster. (ii) Before performing the experiments in the class the teachers should test the apparatus by performing the experiments himself and if the experiment is successful only then he should perform the same experiment in the presence of the students. (iii) The teacher should also take care not to tell the results, which are likely to be obtained from a particular experiment, to the students beforehand. The students should be encouraged to arrive at the results themselves.
Good Features of the Laboratory Method
(i) Much of the modern educational practice is based upon the assumption that children ‘Learn by Doing’. If this assumption be correct then there is no substitute for the laboratory when it is used effectively. In this method pupil’s own experience is the basis of real learning. Students taught in this way learn to be observant, exact and to think for themselves.
This method throws the whole weight of the teaching process on to the process of the growth of the mind rather than on the storing of knowledge. Experimenting is naturally interesting and appealing to young people.
(ii) The natural way of making discoveries and the way the human race has taken, is from the concrete to the abstract. Laboratory work is exceedingly concrete and hence interesting and enjoyable to the young students. It emphasizes the doing and it requires the students to accomplish something that is within their capacity.
(iii) The use of laboratory method helps to develop in the students valuable personal qualities, such as balances judgment and consideration for others. For instance, in moving about in the class-room, sharing material of making experiments, children learn to exercise self restraint for the benefit of the group.
(iv) Learning achieved by this method is of a higher quality, more real and more extensive than that acquired by the old didactic method.
(u) Laboratory work is an important element in the study of geography because there is otherwise no opportunity for deliberate and close observation of geographical facts.
(vi) It is psychologically sound because it satisfies the urge for activity which is fundamental drive in human beings.
(vii) Perhaps the most important part of a geography laboratory is not the physical arrangement but the healthy atmosphere of the class which is conducive to an attitude of information seeking “digging in” on the part of the students.
The proper material and equipment and physical setting help to motivate the students to drink deep from the well of knowledge. (viii) Some topics of geography can be taught most successfully by activity method.
This method is very effective in the area of physical geography and map work. (ix) It is through the use of the activity method that the child is helped to feel the significance of what he is learning. In this method the students are encouraged to find out, think about and experience things for themselves and by themselves.
In this method the pupils are not mere listeners but are active participants in the lesson. Some of them are making experiments, others are observing and making inferences from what they observe.
This method is based on the principle of “Learning by Doing”. The pupils make use of their hands or eyes or very often both. The pupils are led to obtain information by their own active efforts.
It is an activity method, where the pupil is mentally active all the time just as a discoverer and a research student. In this method a child thinks for himself.
The child learns only when his mind is active. This method combines the best features of all the methods in a way that makes provision for individual differences. This method is based on problem solving, directed or supervised study and the socialized situation.
Limitations of Laboratory Method
(i) It is not so easy to make the students discover geographical facts or concepts by experiments.
(ii) It is very slow method of learning and teaching.
(iii) It degenerates sometimes into a kind of manual training.
(iv) Geography rooms in Indian schools are not properly equipped with material to follow this method.
(v) This method cannot be employed usefully for teaching economic, regional, historical and human geography.
(vi) This method cannot be employed in the junior stage because the children have not developed their reasoning and observational power.
List of Experiments that may be Performed
(i) Prove that the sun is more nearly overhead in the summer than in the winter by finding the length of the shadow of a yard stick at noon each day. When will the shadow be longest? When the shortest?
(ii) Test the thermometer at the melting point of ice and the boiling point of water.
(iii) Examine the maximum and minimum thermometers, then taking reading with them.
(iv) Stick a knitting needle through an orange. Hold the needle so that it represents the Axis of earth tilted at 23 1/20 from the perpendicular. Move it round a lighted candle which would represent the sun. Find where the earth would be.
(v) Dust particles in the air can be easily seen in the following way. Darken a window into which the sun shines. Make a small hole in the shutter and it admit a ray of sunshine. Shake a duster or burn brown paper in the room and watch the dancing dust.
(vi) How would you find the height of the mid-day sun at a place the latitude of which is known?
(vii) Rotation and revolution may be explained by rotating a ball round a lamp.
(1’iii) To explain the causes of ocean currents, take a flask full of water. Put some potassium permanganate into it. Heat the flask from below. A current of hot water will rise up and the cold water from the top of the flask will come down to take its place. Potassium permanganate will help the visibility of hot current.