By Lisa Fitzgerald, High School Faculty
This fall, Forest Ridge students are learning remotely with our Digital Distance Learning program. As teachers, it is our job to find creative ways to help our students grow while they are adjusting to the challenge of learning from home.
My favorite part of teaching science is doing authentic experiments with students which allow them to grapple with real world problems, but being at home makes this type of learning more difficult. The science department, though, knew our students were up for the challenge of completing science labs at home. I was so happy to be given the opportunity to send science kits home with the students so that we can engage in science experiments this year, even though we won’t be together in the classroom.
As the students carve out a space in their homes to actively do science, they are being asked to think through and make connections with different phenomena, such as how chemistry can help us understand climate change and how manufacturers determine what materials to use in their cell phones.
My students have already started taking ownership of their science learning by writing their own safety contracts so they can define what is important about their process. In addition, as students engage with the hands-on science at home, they are further developing their critical thinking skills in ways that they wouldn’t be able to do if we were just engaging in online activities. The kits contain materials that will allow students to observe, ask questions, build models and experiment with tools. This will help them to look closer at real problems that are being investigated in the larger scientific community.
By engaging in these types of activities, students have the opportunity to come up with creative solutions to these issues and determine the feasibility of their solutions through trial and error, which will help them determine the potential gaps in their ideas by putting them into practice. These processes will mimic the process that real scientists go through, allowing students to experience trial and error, rather than just reading about it online or in a book while learning at home. By building critical thinking skills in students, there is the potential to create long term success.
As classes progress, students will be able to define problems about the issues that matter to them, allowing them to further take ownership of their learning, as well as increase their engagement and bring their unique creativity to class.