Five Simple Ideas for Science Teachers Conducting Virtual Labs
The logistics of traditional science labs might seem daunting in the context of virtual and hybrid learning, but never fear. The benefit of using technology is that it offers a variety of ways to connect and learn about science without the need for physical interaction. Whether students are in the classroom or learning from home, hands-on science education can happen from anywhere. Here are a few ways to incorporate virtual labs in a digital classroom or blended learning model.
1. Student-Led Virtual Labs
Break students into groups and ask them to work together to submit science experiment ideas related to a lesson the class recently covered. Ask that they give you a list of lab materials they think you will need to carry out their experiment idea.
If your students are virtual, but you have access to the classroom lab, share with the class which types of materials you have at your disposal so that they can make a reasonable list of materials. If both you and your students are virtual, share which household items you have available.
Pick three final experiment options, and poll the class to see which experiment they’d like to see you perform in a live virtual session. Share the instructions the selected student group submitted, and explain what you’re doing each step of the way. Make sure to stop before each step to see if the class has any questions.
2. DIY Virtual Lab Kits
Who doesn’t love a good care package with helpful goodies? Well, how about a care package with a science theme? Some science teachers have gotten creative and put together DIY science lab kits and packaged them for parent pickup. Students can then conduct virtual labs with the science kits at home (under adult supervision) when attending school either in-person or remotely.
3. Show and Tell
If you have younger science learners, play a game of scientific show and tell! Ask students a scientific question and require them to prove the answer with whatever means they have at home.
Here are several fun science experiment ideas from KiwiCo with a list of household materials students will need:
- Lava Bottle – Tall and skinny plastic bottle, food coloring, effervescent antacid tablets, and vegetable oil
- Earth Exploration – Floss and modeling clay of different colors
- Paper Parachutes – Napkins, string, markers, scissors, feathers, toys, and rocks
- Make a Tornado in a Jar – Jar, funnel, food coloring, water, dish soap, glitter, and tacky glue
- Magic Potion Spoons – Clear cups, spoons, vinegar, food coloring, baking soda, a pan
- Butterfly Balancing Act – Paper, cereal box, clear sticky tape, 2 pennies, markers, scissors, modeling clay (or pencil with an eraser)
- Battle of the Bubbles – Dish soap, distilled water, powdered sugar, cornstarch, glycerin, pipe cleaners.
4. Videos and Simulations
There is an abundance of videos and simulations that you can find online, especially for the middle and high school grade levels. Commonly used and public domain simulations can be found at https://phet.colorado.edu/ and https://concord.org/. You can also search on YouTube for scientific channels showing scientists performing full experiments, or snippets that are sure to induce cognitive dissonance (and thus rich discussions).
Other experts such as NASA, NOAA, and USGS even have full science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) lesson plans and experiments/design challenges that can be done at home, many of which are aligned with national science standards.
In terms of implementations, the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) model can accompany any video or simulation to help guide students’ curiosity and understanding.
- The Claim would be the students’ interpretation of what’s happening in the experiment/simulation.
- The Evidence should come directly from the experiment/simulation.
- The Reasoning should involve a scientific principle currently being studied in class that describes why the evidence supports the claim.
5. Courseware’s Virtual Science Lab Offerings
Edmentum’s grades 6–12 online curriculum, Courseware, offers science courses aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and state standards to provide students with meaningful science experiences. Courseware offers three types of science labs that can be used in a blended learning model:
Virtual labs in Courseware include simulations and videos. Courses with virtual labs have all the digital lab materials embedded within the courses, so no external lab materials are needed.
A fun way to bring science to life is by infusing augmented reality (AR) into science. Learn more about the Edmentum AR Biology app, where students can dissect a frog, classify organisms, and learn about aerobic and anaerobic respiration from their mobile devices. The app is free to download and is available for iOS and Android.
Common Materials Labs
For a more hands-on experience that is still practical, common household materials can be used to conduct science labs. Students can access a list of lab materials in the syllabus of each respective course.
Here’s an example of what a common materials lab requires from a biology course:
Specialized Materials Labs
Some science courses may require the use of laboratory science materials. For these courses, virtual students can still access lab materials and conduct supervised experiments at home.
Edmentum has partnered with Ward’s Science to offer schools economically priced Edmentum-specified lab kits for Courseware’s Biology A/B, Chemistry A/B, and High School Earth and Space Science A/B courses. You can read more about Edmentum’s partnership with Ward’s Science. Of course, schools can opt to create their own DIY virtual lab kits (mentioned earlier in this post) to personalize students’ science labs.
For more information on Edmentum’s science offerings, read about our virtual labs and check out our course catalog to browse our science library.