January 5, 2005
In early February Shimer College will start offering additional courses in its highly successful sequence in science lab courses for homeschoolers. The Spring 2005 course offerings will be expanded to include a Biology Lab for High School students. In summer 2004 ShimerCollegebegan hosting biweekly meetings with a group of homeschoolers and their parents in the John Porter Science Lab. This was part of a pilot program to improve science resources available to these students.
The College has now completed the first full semester of Labs for Homeschool Students. The Middle School Discovery Lab class enrolled 11 students in 6th through 8th grades, and the High School Chemistry Lab class enrolled 10 students, aged 14-16. Each class met seven times over the semester on Wednesday afternoons. The high school class allows a total of 21 contact hours per semester, enough lab experience to meet college admissions requirements.
The College has been overwhelmed with the response to these course offerings. Students come from as far away as Racine, Wisconsinand Mt. Prospect, Illinois. Because these classes have waiting lists, the College is adding an additional section of Biology in Spring, 2005. Plans are underway to further expand the program in coming years.
In keeping with Shimer’s approach to education, the labs are small, hands-on, and very interactive. Though these are middle and high school classes, they still operate on the Shimer model. The teacher doesn't lecture. Instead, every class starts with a question on the board, which provides the basis for further exploration of the subject at hand. Eventually, the discussion turns from words to experiments.
Faculty member James Donovan taught the Fall 2004 classes. Donovan says that his main goal for the courses was not only to teach some of the facts, concepts and skills of science, but, more broadly, to help the students realize ‘that the world is beautiful, mysterious, and orderly, and that science can help us to understand and appreciate all three.’ He immensely enjoyed teaching these classes: ‘Like any group of students, there is a range of interests and abilities. I expected that. What gave me a delightful surprise was the fact that every student in the class paid attention and engaged the work diligently. The work habits of these students is the best of any group I've ever taught.’