Performing laboratory experiments in school is extremely important in fortifying the understanding of the scientific process and appreciating the rigor it requires. In addition to fostering a scientific mind, laboratory experiments introduce some basic concepts, materials, and reasoning employed, which can be the starting point to scientific creativity.
To elaborate on the second point, although laboratory experiments are certainly structured and are performed in heavily controlled environments, they act more than just a set of instructions to be completed in order to produce an expected result. Laboratory experiments also teach and inspire in learn-through-example manner. For example, physics experiments in school are often repetitions of experiments performed centuries ago to prove or uncover laws or values that we take for granted today. The formula for torque, the magnitude of gravity on the surface of the earth, and the diameter of earth can be calculated with an outstanding degree of accuracy with very basic materials. The same can be said for any science. For instance, many chemistry experiments can be safely performed by students, yielding the very same outcome: demonstrating to students what can be done, proven, or calculated with a scientific mind, creativity, and (not always fancy) materials. These laboratory experiments demonstrate to students their potential, and stir up excitement especially for younger students. If a middle-schooler can calculate the mass of the earth, then what can’t he or she do? Thus, laboratory experiments are pedagogically useful, not because of the direct result or conclusion that they yield, but because they demonstrate examples of what can be done, and encourage creativity by example.
Whether laboratory experiments are necessary for a course like ours is a complex question to answer. On the one hand, all that I have aforementioned applies and points demonstrates the benefit a lab brings to the course. On the other hand, I assume every student in the course has performed experiments in school for years, and therefore the two additional labs in this course are subjected to the law of diminishing returns, minimizing their benefit. For that reason, I do not believe a laboratory experiment is necessary for this course as it provides very little pedagogical benefit, although it can be easily argued that it does foster fascination for the material.
From this laboratory experiment, I hope to gain mostly the experience and knowledge of how to create aspirin. I would also experience the reactions of the experiment first hand, such as visualizing the cristallisation of the aspirin for the first time.
Although this lab is very scientific as it is based heavily in chemistry, it’s difficult to imagine what a lab in a non-science course would ressemble. Perhaps the lab for history or literature course would be placing yourself in the situation of a writer or a general in a time of war and analyzing the situation from their point of view. Would this fulfill the same role as a science laboratory experiment? It certainly might promote creativity and fascination for the material, but I’m not certain it would be as effective as there would need to be an initial fascination to get the ball rolling, so to speak. Science labs also focus heavily on factual evidence and scientific rigor, where as I would imagine non-science labs allow for more creative expression and flexibility.
The style of academic writing for a lab report also differs from the writing employed in an English or history class. The reason for the difference is that lab report writing style is meant to accurately, clearly, and efficiently convey information. The beauty of the style is irrelevant, as the content is the most important aspect of the lab, and any beauty in the delivery style of that content does not contribute any benefit. That is why the style of academic writing differs between the subjects, and why it is perfectly acceptable for lab reports to be dry and tedious.