Sometimes science labs are in windowless rooms with microscopes and laptops and test tubes and all that other stuff you see on "CSI."
And sometimes labs are outside, where budding scientists can learn valuable lessons while enjoying a little sunshine and getting their hands -- and maybe knees -- just a tad dirty.
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On Thursday and Friday, Advanced Placement science students from Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora got the chance to take their lessons outside around nearby Waubonsie Lake and, in the process, do a whole lot of good for the environment.
The students, working in conjunction with folks from Fox Valley Park District, celebrated the 10th anniversary of the school's first prairie restoration project by planting thousands of prairie plants that they helped grow, teacher Carl Armstrong said. This year's project will push the total acreage of student-restored prairie around the lake past 2.5 acres.
Park district natural areas specialist Cathy Dual said the district collected seeds and germinated them for the students. She then took the seedlings to biology and environmental science classes at Waubonsie where students put their names on the trays with the young plants.
Dual said she then took the plants back and the park district grew them until they were big enough for the students to plant this week.
In an email, Armstrong said the project gives students "a unique opportunity to learn about restoration firsthand in a service learning setting."
Dual agreed. "The students are using our park as an outdoor lab," she said.