Science Faculty Get Creative with Online Labs

Teaching online is a demanding task for any teacher, but science teachers have a particular challenge: conducting labs. Department chair Mrs. Jill Alexis has done several virtual labs with her classes, but notes that, “It is challenging.”

One of Mrs. Alexis’ online labs

Physics Class

Ms. Nicole Cronin is using an online simulator for some of her lab work. Honors Physics students go to PHET, a website where students and teachers can run demonstrations and complete labs.

The PHET lab simulator for building circuits

The physics lab assignment on PHET requires students to virtually build their own circuits. They will learn about what is needed to make a complete circuit, what the different parts of a circuit are, and what different types of circuits are. They will also use one of the labs to derive Ohm’s Law.

Cronin says, “It is not a perfect system for a lab, as it takes away the real life imperfections, and there are obviously going to be limitations to a simulation. But at least the girls still get to do some hands-on learning, work together, and take data.”

Genetics Lab

Ms. Amy Keglovits reports that although not all her labs for her Honors Genetics class can be done virtually, she has found some creative ways for students to do lab work.

In one assignment, students had to work with multiple partners to create babies based on different assigned genotypes. Using Mendel’s laws of segregation and independent assortment, partners flipped coins to determine which of the assigned alleles their children inherited. Then they created families for their offspring by pairing them with other class offspring, using the same coin flipping technique.

After three generations, and multiple marriages among the same players, students were challenged to create pedigrees of their families and trace the path of different traits, some devastating (like Huntington’s Disease) and some not (like curly eyelashes).

“The lab required paying careful attention to detail, reaching out to different classmates, and understanding how the laws of inheritance and probability actually manifest themselves in families,” Mrs. Keglovits said. “They told me they had fun!”