In a class of 24 students, this means that there will be from 6 to 12 small groups working on from 6 to 12 different investigations which may take a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Clearly this is a different type of investigation from “lab 23” and will require different types of space from the old, fixed lab space.
Small group activity/discussion spaces may require one or more tables, seating, an Internet hook-up, possibly a telephone, a markerboard, a tackboard, and the provision for teacher supervision. Such spaces might be small, enclosed conference room spaces, with glass walls on the corridor side for supervision, or alcoves in larger spaces or adjacent to the corridor with the equipment mentioned. Students need to be able to hold discussions during class time without disturbing others and also need to be able to meet in small groups at times other than class time to continue their planning and discuss progress.
Long-term project spaces are the places where the in-school portions of investigations may be carried out. Since these projects will be carried on for several days or weeks, the equipment set-ups and/or charts, maps, etc. need to be left in place without disturbance during the course of the investigation. The space must be capable of supervision which probably means glass walls on the corridor side and view windows into adjacent lab/classrooms or prep spaces. It needs to be large enough for a number of teams to work in it simultaneously. Doors should be large enough so that large equipment and apparatus can be moved in and out (possibly oversized double doors). The ceiling, if there is one, should be high enough so that tall apparatus can be erected; perhaps the space is actually two stories high. Available utilities can include a hot and cold water source, drain, and electric power. Water should be located on the perimeter and the ability to attach a hose to the source should be provided (hose bibs or faucets with hose attachments). Floor drains might be located around the space, so that projects requiring water that could spill or overflow can be accommodated. Power sources in this space might be from overhead, pull-down cords similar to those in wood or metal shops as well as along the perimeter. Hardwired or wireless connections to the school’s data network should be available. The floor probably should be bare concrete so that a variety of investigations can be carried out in the space. Power tools within the space or in adjacent shop spaces would be handy. One such space, designed for a high school in Troy, NY, is immediately adjacent to the existing wood and metal shops; roll-up doors are installed in the walls of the shops so that students can construct apparatus in the shops that can then be moved into the science project space.
Greenhouses can be a wonderful resource for a high school program and, with the multiple directions that student teams may take in designing and conducting investigations to answer a question similar to that suggested above, could be critical to the outcome of the investigation. That said, however, if incorrectly designed and equipped, or if there is no advocate for the greenhouse who is a fanatic about greenhouse programs, the greenhouse is likely, over time, to become an unattractive, expensive storage area.