At school the aim really is learn the basics, the stuff that’s well known and established. This will be the foundation of your future knowledge so it’s really important. But I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always that interesting 😉
Experiments you do at school are set up by your teacher, these will have been tried out and they know more or less that they’ll work and what the answer will be.
When you are at uni things start to change. You start learning things that are at the cutting edge of research, things that have just been discovered and things that we still aren’t sure about. This makes it a lot more interesting. Although a lot of the experiments are still set up so the lecturer knows they will work and what the result will be, the techniques are more complicated and are the sort of techniques that are used in real research.
The work I do now during my PhD and as a scientist is different again. This time it’s me that’s at the cutting edge of research. I’m not being told things, I have to go out and find the information myself about what’s known already and then do experiments to try and find new information. This is really exciting as you are the first one to know the results! 🙂 At the same time this can be quite difficult as you can’t really ask for help as no-one knows what the answer will be and a lot of the time things don’t work because no-one has designed and tested the experiment for you.