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[Susan notes: Good for these educators for pointing out that virtual life, no matter how snazzy, isn't real life.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re “No Test Tubes? Questions Arise on Virtual High School Science” (front page, Oct. 20):

The National Science Teachers Association believes that computer simulations can be valuable but should not be substitutions for laboratory activities.

A minimum of 40 percent of high school science instruction time should be spent on lab-related activities, which includes pre-lab instruction in concepts relevant to the laboratory; hands-on activities by the students; and a post-lab period involving communication and analysis.
Quality lab experiences can and do motivate students, and help them to better understand the subject matter and the nature of science.

While this conversation is important, we should also be discussing how we can bring quality science labs to more rural and urban schools; how we can upgrade substandard science labs; and how we can help more science educators to effectively integrate labs into the curriculum.

Gerald Wheeler
Executive Director
National Science Teachers Assn.
Arlington, Va.

To the Editor:

I have my students do actual dissections, not only because they get a sense of the difference in tissue textures, strength, smells and so on, but also to give them a sense of humility.

Dissections are hard to do; it’s easy to cut too deep or not deep enough, and it’s hard to tell organ from organ, let alone nerve from muscle. I think it is important that students recognize how much effort went into discovering what we know, and how much more they will need to learn.

Do the school districts that feel they cannot afford a chemistry lab or dissection kits feel the same way about their sports programs?

Nat Eddy
Deep River, Conn.

Gerald Wheeler and Nat Eddy

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