Science Teachers, Students Struggle to Navigate School Closures

To slow the spread of coronavirus, schools are relying exclusively on online learning. And even when schools reopen, an emphasis on social distancing is sure to remain. What, then, is the solution to life sciences, which rely heavily on hands-on experimentation? That’s a question being confronted by educators and students alike.

California adopted the Next Generation Science Standards seven years ago. Those standards require that students be able to conduct rigorous science experiments. But that has been difficult during the crisis.

“It’s more important than ever to have effective science instruction when we are depending on science during this crisis,” Marcia Linn, a professor of development and cognition specializing in science and technology at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, told EdSource. “We haven’t done a good job with this, even for our leaders who don’t understand basic principles of science. That really scares me.” 

Some teachers have switched to mostly research-based homework. When possible, students can conduct lighter experiments with virtual supervision from home. But there’s just no substituting the activities that go on in a lab.

“I’m for sure learning a lot less, especially for bio-med,” College Park High student Taryn Lewis said.

Learning loss is occurring across the state and across different subjects. But science may be the most vulnerable of all the subjects — just when our youth needs it most.


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