- Ensuring all students have equitable access to science lessons, even in a remote or hybrid environment, is possible with thoughtful planning in advance, Lee Ferguson, a veteran AP and IB biology teacher at Allen High School in Allen, Texas, writes for Edutopia. Ferguson believes there are four key questions and considerations all teachers should weigh as they design assignments.
- Educators should be clear on the learning objectives they want students to glean and ensure instructions are concise and easy to understand, with teachers available for further questions if needed. Time online with students should also be focused on helping them practice and strengthen skills as opposed to delivering content they can absorb when not in class.
- To help with labs even from home, Ferguson and other teachers tapped into online simulations provided by groups including Pivot Interactives. They also created at-home kits students could pick up, with options for those who couldn't do so or chose not to. Finally, assignments should be designed with how learning will be assessed in mind, as well as how lessons will prepare students for future high-stakes tests like an AP exam.
Science lessons are greatly enhanced with hands-on learning opportunities, whether that’s through group projects that involve collaboration or even individual assignments that tap into physical science labs at school. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for students to gather together and work on assignments outside of a virtual environment, and it has challenged educators in getting tools to students.
There are ways educators have made use of remote and hybrid learning spaces to bring science to life for students who may be at home for their schooling, or spending fewer days in a classroom. One is sending children out into their communities or their own backyards and asking them to observe and collect materials they can find on their own, such as dissecting plant materials they find outside their door.
While some educators have had the time to create remote science lab kits students could use at home, others have turned to interactive online lessons like that explain complex systems, like the interactions and relationships between prey and predators, to students.
But some science experiments can also be conducted with the simplest of home ingredients. Soap bubbles, made with water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid, can be transformed into a lab on surface tension, and salt plus a bottle of water can become a lesson on thermodynamics.
In spite of the pandemic changing the idea of what and where a classroom can be, educators are finding new ways such as these to bring hands-on experiences and immersive learning to students.