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The Day in the Lab Program ~ Hampshire College

Amherst, Massachusetts


When? 8:30 AM, Friday of April public school vacation, 1985

Where? Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts

Two hundred junior high school girls show up for what was to become the first of the Girls' Day in the Lab workshops.They are exuberant, joyful, and certainly full of expectation. The science building is theirs for the day - all classes have been moved and resident, non-participating faculty have been duly warned.

In the registration room, each student receives a folder with a program, tickets to four workshops run by Hampshire women (students, staff, and faculty), several worksheets for take-home experiments, and some science paper games. They pick up pencils marked "Hampshire College Lab Day" and a small hand-held magnifying glass at another table. Across the hall, there are baby rabbits and lambs for youngsters to pet and hold, and stethoscopes to listen to their heart beats. In later years, there will be chicks, ducklings, crayfish, an iguana, a skink, and, one year, a Vietnamese potbellied pig. Students compare folders, and trade tickets to workshops in order to be with friends or to be in their preferred activities. Slime and Superballs always has many more students than there were tickets allotted.

One of the faculty gives a welcome, a word about research, and a warning to look, ask questions, but not touch research projects in progress, and sends the students off to their first workshop. Balloons on the stairs and at the workshop stations augment the map in the program and directions offered by Hampshire regulars stationed at strategic points.

Energy is high, but once the workshops start, there is an eerie calm as students and workshop leaders get down to business. Over the years, many more workshops have been developed, some by students, some by staff and faculty. The handouts are encouraged to have a take-home element to them, so that youngsters might be able to do some kitchen science with their families and friends. At the end of the day, all girls are given certificates noting their presence in the workshops. In addition, a preliminary mailing, encouraged them to bring a poster of a woman scientist; these are displayed throughout the day and each girl that brings a poster receives a small science prize.

The summer following the first Day in the Lab for Girls, faculty worked with teachers in nearby Holyoke, and eventually Springfield and Chicopee, to develop a Day in the Lab for girls and boys from these communities. Teachers were left to decide on how students would be chosen to come to Hampshire, and it was a field trip for those students.

Days in the Lab have continued since 1985.


A sampling of Day in the Lab workshops
Muscles Alive!

Light and Color

Fish Farming in a Solar Greenhouse

Brains at work

Taking Care of Plants

Zax or Jax . . . Can Computers learn

Fun on the farm

Pinhole Cameras

Slime and Superballs


Special Mission to Oobleckia

Electricity Sparks the Imagination

Mothers and medicine

Are You an Athlete?

Pond Scavenger Hunt

Energy Audit of a Hampshire Classroom

Kitchen Chemistry

What do Engineers Do?


Fun on the farm

Slime and Superballs

Flash Floods

Blood and Guts

Emergency medicine

Solve It!

Heart and Lung Dissection

Colors Back and Forth

Detective Work with Bones

Photos from assorted Days in the Lab.

Setting up.



Observing and recording data.



More workshops,





final eats,

and good-bye.


Professor Nancy Lowry, (413)559-5581,
School of Natural Science, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002