The German Schülerlabor: development – position today - impact

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Rolf Hempelmann
Physical Chemistry, Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany
Forum 2014 Helsinki
WG1 : Inspiring the young

Sch¨ulerlabors (casually called school labs or informal science labs) as out-of-school

hands-on laboratories for school students represent a STEM educational movement in

Germany and neighbouring German-speaking regions which has developed bottom-up,

starting approximately 15 years ago, and which now comprises more than 300 laboratories.

The Federal Association of Sch¨ulerlabors (1) as a kind of coordinator organizes

annual meetings and edits the “LeLa magazine”, a journal dedicated to Sch¨ulerlabor

issues.

Among the innumerable mostly short-term STEM initiatives in Germany the schlerlabors

form a large well-visible block. However, users, educational administration, potential

suppor-ters and educational scientists cannot always reliably appreciate the effect

of sch¨ulerlabor visits, because at a first glance the sch¨ulerlabor scenery looks comparatively

heterogeneous. One aim of the present contribution is to outline the mission and

the general concepts of the entirety of sch¨ulerlabors and to elaborate that meanwhile

several clearly defined categories of sch¨ulerlabors have evolved (2), which internally

are amazingly homogeneous.

At many universities, Sch¨ulerlabors have meanwhile been integrated into the education

of teacher students, but only recently it has been realized that they also represent

powerful platforms for empirical educational research (3). Studies of this kind allow

well-grounded statements about the impact of sch¨ulerlabors.

In summary, university-based sch¨ulerlabors operate at the interface between school and

university; the strategic relevance of this position is presently being recognized more

and more, also in view of the ever increasing lack of skilled technical personal in the

economy.