Online labs keep science classes moving

Yana Sergiyenko, Eagle Eye Staff Writer

Lab Science teachers at El Camino High School are replacing classroom equipment with online resources for distance labs. During distance learning, students had to switch to simulations and online labs from performing such activities as microscope slides observations and dissections inside the class. 

“My only concern about online studying is that a lab class is very heavy in physical activities we need to do,” says Dr. Contreras, Honors Physiology teacher. 

According to Contreras, simulations are very important in distance learning, because they’re close to the actual activities, they use online pipettes, different substances and other materials students would use at school. 

In case of dissections, students will have to learn to dissect through the videos and this factor has caused concerns from the teacher as it’s going to be hard to do that online and not going to be the same as the real-life dissection.

Former Honors Physiology students that studied the class online last year, Katie Norlie ‘21 and Dalitiah Bazinga ‘22 both agree with the concern of Contreras about online education. 

“I feel like going through the dissection unit would be hard, because it’s more hands-on” shared Dalitiah.

Although the students haven’t done too many labs just yet, Norlie, who is studying Honors Chemistry at the moment, says that her teacher had filmed YouTube videos, so that the students could follow along and record the data.

“If anything I would be worried about not having enough time to make it through the years worth of curriculum. I think that distance learning is slowing us down” says Norlie.

As for AP Chemistry, there are virtual labs students use for the class. 

Mr. Vu, AP Chemistry teacher, states that the class is more knowledge-based and that having the equipment and doing the activities is an enrichment, but it’s not necessary. 

Online tools help science students participate in virtual labs.
Dr. Contreras hold up some of the models he uses in his distance learning lessons.

“A lot of the things in Chemistry are minute. Even if we have million-dollar equipment, we still can’t show them,” says Vu.

The most important concerns of the teachers are that the students won’t be able to tangibly experience the laboratory activities and in case of misunderstanding, the ways teachers could help the students through the distance are contracted. The only way the students could talk to the teacher about the issue is through online calls, or messages, which limits the face-to-face interactions. 

Teachers are worried about the lack of physical participation and interactions. Contreras expects the students to get more advanced in online education and start lacking in the physical part of the class if they don’t get a chance to return to the regular school this year, while Vu sees it as a sad reality where the self-learners are getting ahead of the students that need more guidance and the teachers don’t get to manage that online.

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