Teaching Science in Online School
When the Powerhouse Science Center in Durango, Colorado, started developing a virtual reality exhibit, faculty and staff of Colorado Connections Academy became so interested, they asked if the school could become a sponsor. With a school location right in Durango, and students who already benefit from learning in the online classroom and using virtual tools, it seemed like an ideal combination.
The Powerhouse Science Center was founded to spark curiosity, ignite imagination, and power exploration by providing hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) exhibits and experiences. Much like online school, the science center’s new virtual reality exhibit lets visitors immerse themselves in distant worlds, interact with technology, and experience things they might not otherwise learn about.
To celebrate the online school’s sponsorship of the exhibit, we interviewed high school science teacher Dezerae Daniels to learn more about how students study science and can pursue opportunities in STEM fields.
Q: What are your favorite things about teaching science in an online school? How does it work teaching science remotely?
A: I enjoy teaching science online because I can tailor the content to my students and use technology to get them interested in science and science careers. The curriculum does a wonderful job of presenting the science topics in multiple ways, and teachers use interactive virtual labs, videos, and whiteboards to model science skills.
Q: How is teaching science online different from teaching in a traditional classroom?
A: As an online science teacher, I have the time in my schedule to work with students one-on-one and to answer questions. In many instances, I didn’t have the time to do so in a bricks-and-mortar classroom.
Q: How do you get students interested in science when they’re not physically in a lab or classroom with you?
A: Online teachers regularly call students and ask questions to assess how well they understand the course material. When I am completing these calls, I try to engage students in the science field by discussing possible careers they may be interested in pursuing.
Q: What kind of real-life science experiences have you been able to integrate into the lessons and activities you develop for your students?
A: One of the real-life science experiences I have included in the curriculum is writing lab reports. I require my students to write lab reports so they can practice thinking and writing like a scientist.
Sometimes I find online games or virtual simulations to help in explaining topics. For example, BrainPop has a fun game where students have to use different simple machines to help an animated character overcome an obstacle. I have students play this game, and then we reflect and discuss what they learned by playing the game.
Q: Do online students do science fairs, and how does that work?
A: We hold a science fair every year. First, students have to submit and gain approval for their topic. During the first semester when students are working on their projects, the entire team of science teachers conducts multiple LiveLesson® sessions in the virtual classroom to provide science fair help and answer questions. When the projects are completed, we host a group science fair during the second semester in a LiveLesson room and invite parents and teachers to watch students present their science fair projects by sharing videos and other visuals.
Q: How do labs work for online science students?
A: Online science students usually complete virtual labs. They access a secure website to safely practice a science skill. For example, using a virtual simulation, students melt an ice cube using heat and determine how long it takes to change from solid, liquid, and gas phases of water. This is a safe way for students to learn more about phase changes without using the stove or dangerous chemicals.
As part of the science courses required for graduation, students complete at least two full years of a lab-based science. I feel that the virtual labs these courses provide help prepare students for what a science lab is like in college.
Q: Have you had any students who went on to study science in college?
A: Yes, I have helped to encourage some students to pursue college degrees in science and related fields, such as engineering, computer programing, web design, gaming, and architecture.
With a large range of virtual science courses available to them, online school students have many opportunities to explore science or STEM as a potential college major and career. At Connections Academy®–supported schools, for example, students may be able to take engineering, anatomy and physiology, and even Java programing courses in addition to the more standard fare.
Having a more flexible schedule may also make it possible to visit local science exhibits, become involved in clubs for STEM-focused students, or find internship opportunities. All of these great experiences can be the beginning of a bright future for online school students.
How do you encourage your student to explore the many possibilities associated with the sciences? Share your most successful ideas in the comments.