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Published Article Discusses STEM-Focused Mobile Labs

MLC Member and BioBus Founder & Executive Director Ben Dubin-Thaler publishes article about best practices for STEM-focused mobile labs

 

We are pleased to share that in April, long-time MLC Member Ben Dubin-Thaler published an article in the Connected Science Learning Journal focused on best practices for STEM-focused mobile instructional spaces. In the article, Ben and his associates discuss three best practices for operating a STEM-focused mobile instructional space, aiming to inform the work of formal and informal STEM educators with mobile labs (or mobile lab plans). View the full article here.

 

We had a chance to sit down with Ben to learn more about this paper, his work in this niche educational sector and his hopes for the future of mobile lab STEM instructional spaces.

 

Talk to us about the article. What key discussions would you like to point out to the mobile lab community?


The article identifies three best practices that we believe drives the high impact of a mobile lab experience. They are:

 



Creating a shared culture is about creating a space where students and instructors are working side-by-side, exploring and problem-solving together. We introduce the concept of the "third space" which is a cultural in-between area where participants can reform their sense of belonging in science and their view of whoever else belongs in science.

 

Our bus is somewhere in between the culture of the science lab (where BioBus staff and volunteers often feel most comfortable) and school or home cultures (where students and classroom teachers who board the bus feel most comfortable). The third space of the mobile lab is neither of these places, but also includes elements of both, creating a dynamic that invites students in but also encourages them to imagine themselves belonging in the scientific culture.

 

Fostering agency is about empowering students to ask the questions they're most interested in and giving them the tools and helping them develop the skills to answer those questions. The inquiry-based curriculum of the mobile labs in this article (and the approach that MLC members take) shows students how powerful they can be in creating their own knowledge.

 

Offering multiple pathways for engagement speaks to both the versatility of mobile labs as well as how mobile labs ideally provide an entry point to pathways for students to do more science. Our mobile labs often work with students during the school day, boarding the lab during their regular science class. Our mobile labs can also engage with students and educators in the after-school space, during school break programs or engage entire families at public events. We have also built a pathway for the many students who want to engage in more depth - including enrolling in a science program after school or pursuing a career in science through internship programs. While we know that the 45 minutes a student spends on the mobile lab can be a life-changing experience, it's equally important to give students the chance to sustain that initial spark.


How could the MLC or mobile lab community use this article in their work or to educate their peers/colleagues? 


I hope articles like this one help the mobile lab community advocate for increased support from their university sponsors, private funders and government partners. Mobile labs are extremely charismatic, fun and exciting, but they're also more than that - we have an increasing body of educational research showing how they can be the game-changing ingredient in bridging formal school education to the outside-of-school experiences that lead students to dedicate themselves to scientific pursuits.


What is your hope for the future of mobile labs? 


I hope the mobile lab movement continues to grow and create more equitable access to the highest quality lab experiences. I hope that our mobile lab programs build on the need for science spaces that are responsive to the cultural needs of communities most excluded from science, especially BIPOC communities and communities that lack economic resources. I hope that our mobile lab programs continue to build on our understanding that we are one part of an ecosystem that requires deep partnerships with schools, community-based organizations and the professional scientific community in order to be most effective at helping our students reach their full potential.


Do you have any concluding thoughts or thanks to include in the blog?


I'm really looking forward to the MLC Annual Conference in Charlotte and hearing from the community what best practices we missed in this article.

 

I'm incredibly thankful to my co-founder Latasha Wright for developing these best practices through years of trial and error and by listening to students, teachers, and families. I was inspired by Rob Rouse and Jared Fox (co-authors of the paper). Also, as anyone who has ever worked on a mobile lab can tell you, it is not easy work. I'm thankful for everyone in BioBus management and all our unionized employees for their hard work and dedication.

 

Please join us in congratulating Ben and his colleagues Rob Rouse and Jared Fox for this outstanding article and their ongoing work in the mobile lab industry.


Join the 2024 MLC Annual Conference and hear more from Ben. He’ll be presenting at the conference, diving in deeper on this topic and facilitating a hands-on design challenge. Still need to register? Visit our website.

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