top of page

why student-designed labs

the need to "do science"

What is “doing science?” Science education reform efforts and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) encourage students to be active agents who “do science” and connect their understanding of concepts to their everyday lives and the world around them. “Doing science” highlights science and engineering practices such as asking questions, analyzing data, and constructing explanations.

Need for more “doing science.” While most states have adopted NGSS or similar standards, many students continue to have limited opportunities to “do science” and often have difficulty or need significant support in tasks relating to science practices, like using evidence to support their claims and arguments. Furthermore, many students do not see themselves as a “science person.” 

Shifting away from task completion labs. A primary reason for these challenges is limited student time completing hands-on activities or labs and furthermore, the nature of these activities. Labs or activities are often framed to confirm rather than investigate concepts 8 and lack clear connections to the broader science concepts students are learning.


Often times, these activities emphasize task-completion and simplify or eliminate critical thinking, development of science practices, and the “struggle of doing science. As a result, students not only lack opportunities to develop these practices, but also may have misconceptions of what it means to “do science” or “be a scientist.” Additionally, students may lack the inclination to develop science practices due to a lack of interest.

Mary Velasquez_Baking Powder_1127_edited.jpg

the power of student-driven investigations & tinkering

Student Disposition toward Science

Impact students' belief about what science is and sense of belonging in it. 


Help student appreciate and see how science knowledge is built and relates to the world around them.

Better Teach & Assess Understanding of Science Concepts

Provide meaningful context to learning that go beyond memorization.

Student-designed labs provide unique opporutnities to assess student thinking and interest.

Build NGSS Science Practices

Build NGSS practices like asking questions, planning & carrying out investigations, developing models, analyzing data, and communicating information.

Choose from our different scaffolds as students' progress in their skills and practices.

Student Motivation, Agency, & Voice

Encourage student motivation & voice by providing opportunities for choice, creativity, and imagination.


Students can become a "community science expert" in a topic and share or work together with others.

why use food & cooking as a medium for tinkering & student-designed experiments

  • Safety & Accessibility. While student tinkering with traditional labs (that do not use food) pose both safety and cost concerns, food-based labs may assuage these concerns.

  • Student Interest. With traditional labs, students may not know how to further tinker or experiment (or may not see its value). Students may have more inclination and agency in designing their investigations around food-based labs because foods and recipes are likely to be more familiar and interesting to them compared to a traditional lab that uses substances they have no prior experience with.

  • Bridging the Gap between Classroom & The Home. Adults, especially those with less experience in science, may be more able to access materials and ingredients (due to cost and availability) and may feel more confident in the recipe-like procedures and safety precautions required to facilitate and conduct food-labs as opposed to traditional labs. Facilitating at-home experiences allow teachers to tap into the benefits of learning experiences that take place outside the classroom. This includes positively impacting student motivation, student competency, and sense of belonging in science, especially when sustained over a period of time and during adolescence.

  • Draw on student and community assets. Because food plays a crucial role in almost all communities and cultures,food-based lessons can better facilitate community-oriented learning and provide opportunities for students to share their culture and identities. A teacher can not only invite student ideas, but learn from students based on their unique experiences and backgrounds. 

bottom of page