How to Use Video to Prep Students for Science Labs

Moira West


For students, experiments and labs can be the most fun aspects of a science class because they’re interactive and hands on. And while you can give students written instructions, they may not read them closely. Visuals help focus students, and give them a picture of the proper lab procedure. For example, here’s a video showing students how to perform a lab about acids and bases:

Of course, you could demonstrate labs at the front of the classroom (and sometimes it’s more dramatic to introduce the lab that way), but video has a couple of distinct advantages:

  • Reusability: A video can be saved and used again for students who were absent. Or, if you haven’t made changes in the lab from one year to the next, you can keep the video handy to show a new class of students.
  • Saves materials: If you’re doing a lab or demonstration that involves resources in limited supply, a video can mean you don’t have to use up two, three, or even five different sets of materials you can’t easily replace.
  • Useful for substitutes: A video lab can be a good choice on a day when you won’t be there, if the lab isn’t too difficult or dangerous (the acid/base lab above might not be a good choice for a substitute, for example, because of the use of chemicals like ammonia). You can still explain the experiment to the class, and keep your students from falling too far behind schedule.

So how can you introduce a lab with video? Set up your lab as you normally would, and then just be sure to keep a camera or smartphone handy to get images and video clips. Here are some things you should be sure to record:

  1. Equipment. Photos of what students need to perform your lab can offer visual reinforcement so they (hopefully) won’t forget to include anything.

  2. Important moments in the experiment. For example, in the video above, there’s an image comparing acidic and alkaline substances reacting to an indicator.

    Acidic and Alkaline Solutions
  3. Your actions. If you need students to perform a particular action in a particular way, recording the exact steps can help eliminate confusion. Either set up your camera somewhere where it can record what you’re doing, or have a second person record video.

You don’t have to record every second of your lab — just capture key moments that make it clear what you’re doing. Then, you can combine your photos and video clips with text slides explaining what you’re doing. When you’re done, you’ll have a video that gives students a clear understanding of the lab procedures in a quick, engaging way.

How are you using video in your science classes? Let us know in the comments section below or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter.