Learning Labs reopen for students at Argonne

Middle schools and high schools return to Argonne for hands-on STEM learning.

As a world-class hub for science and engineering, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory welcomes visitors on a daily basis. But some of the Lab’s most exciting and excited visitors are the fifth to 12th graders who arrive on school buses. Their mission: to discover science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through hands-on experiments at the recently reopened Learning Labs.

Argonne’s Educational Programs and Outreach department is excited to start up Learning Labs again after having closed on-site programming for a couple of years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Argonne’s Learning Center came up with innovative, virtual programs for youth such as virtual escape roomsvirtual camps, the Argonne Teen Advisory Council and ​“Be the Scientist” activities on STEAMville. While those programs and more continue to run virtually, the laboratory is happy to host on-site programs such as Learning Labs again.

“Being able to participate in Argonne’s science firsthand provides an intangible yet impactful part of the Learning Lab experience for students.” — John Domyancich, Learning Center lead

“While virtual programs have their own advantages, there is no substitute for the feeling that students get when we welcome them to the lab in person,” said Learning Center lead John Domyanich. ​“Being able to participate in Argonne’s science firsthand provides an intangible yet impactful part of the Learning Lab experience for students.”

After a warm welcome that highlights Argonne’s scientific mission, students move on to exploring the Learning Lab itself. The Learning Center offers students a couple of different Learning Labs: one where they build and test their own battery, and another where they learn about X-rays and compete to build a model magnetic linear accelerator.

Each of these student-driven experiences draws inspiration from real science done at Argonne. In addition, these hands-on activities develop students’ mental habits that help guide scientists and engineers in their research.

“I really liked the feeling of making a battery; at first, I had no clue what was going on, but then eventually I caught on,” a student told Learning Center staff in a thank-you letter. ​“I enjoyed every second of being there and hope to visit again soon.”

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.