Experiments at home

A look into science labs during remote learning

AP+Biology+Lab+Kit

Kevin Kim

This is the lab kit AP Biology students picked up to use this semester during remote learning | Photo by Kevin Kim

Gavin Hung

With the continuation of distance learning, science teachers have come up with creative ways to recreate traditionally in-person labs at home with lab kits, online simulations, and a new addition to remote learning, Pivot Interactives. 

 

AP Chemistry teacher Kavita Gupta recognizes the importance of labs in science classrooms since they help clarify concepts for students through application.

 

“[Previously,] a lot of the learning was done through labs in the class, so students will do many labs and through which the labs connect directly to the content,” Gupta said. “So as they were learning something, theoretically, they could get hands-on experience.”

 

“[Previously,] a lot of the learning was done through labs in the class, so students will do many labs and through which the labs connect directly to the content. So as they were learning something theoretically, they could get hands-on experience.”

— Kavita Gupta

 

AP Biology teachers also recognize the value of utilizing labs to apply and solidify new concepts. During the second week of school, each AP Biology student picked up a lab kit from school. AP Biology teacher Renee Fallon said that there are three to four labs planned for the kit and other labs will be done online this semester.

 

While students enrolled in subjects such as biology are able to perform labs at home, AP Physics teacher Jim Birdsong took a different approach to conducting labs remotely. Birdsong used a combination of online simulations and predetermined data to ensure accuracy.

 

“We need [the labs] to be so computational and precise,” Birdsong said. “I don’t think kids can get it to the level we need [at home].”

 

“We need [the labs] to be so computational and precise. I don’t think kids can get it to the level we need [at home].”

— Jim Birdsong

 

To combat this issue, the school district recently subscribed to a service called Pivot Interactives  that allows students to perform labs interactively at home, preserving the precision of a lab setting. Birdsong discusses how Pivot Interactives will help bridge the gap between remote learning and in-person lab experiences.

 

“[Pivot Interactives] tape so many different situations that you can control everything and you would watch a videotaped version of whatever you choose,” Birdsong said. “So instead of a computer simulation, you get an actual video of an actual lab. You can plug in what mass you want where… We just got access to all the videos and now we have to design [labs] to use it.”

 

AP Chemistry Miro Board
AP Chemistry teacher Kavita Gupta shares examples of the Miro Boards students completed during group work.

Another consequence of remote labs is the lack of opportunities for collaboration. Gupta has resolved this issue with the addition of Miro boards, an online platform that simulates a group whiteboard experience.

 

“Not only are you doing individual lab data analysis, but you also can do it collectively with the group,” Gupta said. “A large part of the lab experience is looking at each other’s thinking and sharing out your results and sharing with others. And I’m trying to create that through collaborative lab experience as well.” 

 

Teachers are employing different tools to ensure a fulfilling remote learning experience to adapt to the new normal. 

 

“We are going to end this time being really good at teaching distance learning [material] and then we will never do it again,” Birdsong said. “I heard it described as every teacher is a first-year teacher again, because everything is new. How you teach, how you do labs and how you deal with technology is all new — just like when we just started. Everyone is a rookie this year.”

 

“We are going to end this time being really good at teaching distance learning [material] and then we will never do it again. I heard it described as every teacher is a first-year teacher again, because everything is new. How you teach, how you do labs and how you deal with technology is all new — just like when we just started. Everyone is a rookie this year.”

— Jim Birdsong

Correction: [September 18, 2020 9:50 a.m.] Pivot Interactions to Pivot Interactives.