• Bryn McConnell

GHS Science Teachers Innovate Labs Amid COVID-19

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

The GHS Science Department is working hard to adapt to a hybrid learning system, but changing the way that they administer labs presents a unique challenge. According to chemistry teacher Ms. Bylo, “I think the biggest challenge is just trying to make it as equitable and relatable and as fun as possible for our fully remote learners.”

Mr. DeLuca, a biology teacher and the science program administrator, described one of his AP Biology classes: “The students who were home worked on something that will help tie two days of work together.” Meanwhile, the other cohort made observations and collected data based on a hands-on classroom experiment. He said his goal is to avoid having students at home simply watch the other cohort perform a lab without them.

Some days, teachers have both cohorts complete virtual labs using websites such as Labster, Gizmo or PhET simulations. Mr. DeLuca mentioned how teachers have been using some sites like PhET simulations for years. He also described an online lab format that allowed teachers to have students analyze experiments that they would otherwise be unable to do in a classroom. Mr. DeLuca said, specifically with PhET simulations and Gizmos, “Those websites really provide students the opportunity to collect data in a virtual experience, manipulate that data, analyze it, answer questions. and make connections to other ideas.” Despite not having the full “hands-on experience,” Mr. DeLuca said, “Sometimes they [the virtual labs] even do things better than we could do in class.”

Student browses PhET Simulations (Photo credit: Elizabeth Casolo)

Jorja Pastore, a senior taking marine biology this year, talked about what marine biology students were missing out on due to hybrid learning.

Pastore said, “We get just a Doc with the data instead of going and getting it ourselves. I know the other cohort… [hasn’t] gone out once to go to the beach and my cohort has gone every time we had a double block. And so I know for them it must stink having to look at all the data themselves not being able to do it in action.”

Especially for Pastore’s class, where regular trips to Greenwich Point for hands-on experiments are a core part of the course, hybrid learning presents a major obstacle. However, Pastore also said that she thought her teacher was doing a good job adapting to COVID-19 guidelines and a different style of teaching. For example, “When he [the teacher] plays videos, he makes sure to mute one camera so that way the quality is better,” which is something not all of her teachers have gotten comfortable with yet.

COVID has caused drastic changes in nearly every part of student lives, but its impact on science classes is especially noteworthy. As coronavirus cases rise once again across the country, it prompts the question: are there still more changes to come?

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