The ComPADRE Collections

Using Indoor Labs

This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Written by Mary Savina of Carleton College

Images of geoscience students in the lab

"Science labs can be among the richest experiences students have at the university. It is one of the few opportunities students will have to practice science much in the way professionals do."
Indiana University Teaching Handbook
Indiana University Teaching Handbook

What is an indoor lab?

Indoor labs are structured investigations and experiments of materials, models, and other equipment. Labs last for an hour or more and take place mainly inside, though some data may be collected outside. Also, indoor labs can be used to follow up on field labs, for example by describing plant specimens or rock samples collected on a field trip, or by analyzing field data with a computer program.

Why use indoor labs?

Indoor labs are an opportunity for students, lab assistants and faculty to work together in a less formal way than in many classrooms. Many science students report that the lab instruction and projects they complete are the things they really remember from science classes.

Indoor labs retain a prominent place in most science courses. Traditionally, most of the "hands-on" learning in science classes took place in indoor labs. Many science classes now include lots of hands-on learning in other places - through interactive lectures, demonstrations, group work, problem sets, etc. Learn more about the benefits of using indoor labs

How to design and use indoor labs - logistical and pedagogical considerations

Designing and running indoor labs successfully requires a combination of logistic and pedagogic decisions.

Pedagogical considerations include deciding how to structure the lab session, what kinds of follow-up activities are appropriate, how to help students work in groups. Logistical decisions include deciding on basic and specialized lab equipment.Learn more about designing indoor labs

Specialized materials for indoor labs

Specialized materials are used in indoor labs in different disciplines. For instance, geoscience labs commonly use materials such as rock, mineral and fossil specimens; air photos and satellite data; topographic and geologic maps and other supplies. The links below lead to discussions of the pedagogy and logistics involved in using these materials. Learn more about working with geoscience materials

Indoor labs and other Starting Point modules

In addition to the ideas and examples presented in this module, you may want to search through the examples in other Starting Point modules for more ideas that can be adapted to make indoor labs. See "related links" at the top of the page for these modules.


There are numerous published lab manuals for geoscience and other science classes. What we have tried to do in this site is to highlight some new ways of approaching "standard" sciencelab content, especially using active learning techniques and web-based resources.View examples of lab approaches

For Further Reading

Read bibliography

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