In a social studies class, the equivalents of a science lab would be primary-source analysis, independent research tasks, or interactive simulations. Failure is not as dramatic or as expensive as a destructive lab explosion ... but they can still blow up in your face with incorrect preparation. Students can jump to inaccurate conclusions about Alexander Hamilton without the proper context for his words; I've had a student spend a full week researching the wrong Treaty of Paris; a role-play activity can go off the rails or sputter out quickly unless everyone knows what they're talking about.
Constructivist student-centered activities can be as dangerous in a history classroom as they would be in a science lab: "Here, kids, mix some chemicals together and just see what happens!" = "Here, kids, browse some websites and just figure out what they mean!" My content partner and I strongly believe that our students need some essential knowledge and skill competency before we 'set them loose' in a history lab. Flipping the direct instruction of key terms, events, individuals, steps of a skill, etc. helps to avoid major confusions, misinterpretations, and awkward blow-ups in our classroom.
Here is an example of what we do: