I have been talking about this for a while, we're doing some pilots here in the Ottawa area about it, but check out the following article - hands on is the way to go, great validation. This from the NY Times article is pushing the concept that the fact High School population may not be interested in sciences(bio, physics) - as much we need them to - is for lack of hands on experiments. They continue saying that which we have been "wrongfully" thinking that hands on science could be simulated through a computer. An interesting fact I was one of those people a long time ago who thought the computer could be the solutions to it all - at Corel, we had a product called Corel chemlab.
An interesting tid bit - I have tried to check out for more info, but nothing just yet
"Secondary science and mathematics education is on the rise, with growing numbers of students in more challenging classes. Enrollment in advanced biology and physics courses doubled from 1997 to 2004, nearly doubled for advanced math and rose 50 percent for advanced chemistry, according to the National Science Foundation"