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What Should be in a Leaving Cert Physics Lab?

One issue that always causes difficulty for a teacher taking over Leaving Cert Physics in a school is equipment.

It's not just the difficulty of knowing in advance what exactly should be there. There is also the difficulty of figuring out exactly what is there. With shared storage areas that can become increasingly chaotic, it can be hard to find what you're looking for. And sometimes that can be made worse if you're not exactly sure what a particular piece of equipment might look like.

There is a list of sorts supplied by the DES for new-build schools, but that doesn't exactly match the requirements of the Leaving cert syllabus, and it is of little use to a lab that isn't a new build, but that desperately needs an upgrade.

Complicating matters still further is the fact that preferences vary as to the best way of carrying out some practical work: the country seems to be pretty much evenly split as to the relative merits of light-gates or ticker-tape timers for example. And of course, there is also the fact that manufacturers continuously come up with new ways of doing old things. The LED ray-box pictured over, for example, looks great to me. Cheaper than the old plug-in models and, with less connections and delicate bulbs, likely to be more resilient (I would hope?). But I won't be ordering them for a while, until my current supply falls apart.

So, to try to deal with this, I worked with a few other teachers in recent weeks to put together a quick checklist for the equipment that we should all have. It's very much a work-in-progress and probably always will be, but I think it's beginning to take shape and I've uploaded it here: (as Physics Lab Requirements, on the top left)

Though of course, such a list will only ever capture the basics. It's not a requirement that you have a hammer in your lab, or a basketball, or a tennis ball. But if you happen to have any of those, you could carry out the demos below, relevant to the principles of equilibrium - and only one of the hundreds of cool demos available for your perusal at Resources • Science on Stage Ireland. For these, you will need countless extra bits and pieces, the sort of thing you accumulate over the years. And the sort of thing that will then be lying around your lab in years to come. Cluttering the place, and leaving the young teacher who replaces you to wonder, what the hell you were at!

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