Virtual experiments and open-ended assignments bring the lab to you.
You’re at your bestie’s house studying for the PreACTs when you get on the topic of science classes. You’ve been curious about that ever since he started attending Southwest Secondary Learning Center.
Your school has a lab full of chemicals and equipment, but as far as you know your friend takes all of his classes on a computer. But he really knows his stuff with all this test prep. Does he have a Bunsen burner in his bedroom? What’s his secret?
You decide to ask him directly: “How do your science classes even work over there? Do you still do experiments and stuff?”
“Well, I didn’t have to dissect a frog, if that’s what you mean,” he tells you. “But it’s not as hands-off as you’d think. We manipulate test tubes, weigh things, and heat materials virtually. Sometimes we do specific projects for the science instructor.”
The idea of never dissecting a frog is pretty appealing. But you’re not totally sure what he means, so you ask him to explain…
There Are Online Science Classes…
First off, there are tons of online science courses offered through the tech-based learning platform, Edgenuity. To graduate at SSLC, you need to take three years of science, but you can choose which type of science you want: biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, even environmental science. When you take the class, you’ll watch lectures and do quizzes and exercises to be sure you understand each section before you move on.
There are also virtual labs, which are computer simulations of different types of experiments and exercises that you might see in any other classroom. And you can see and label all the frog parts without having to smell one, which is a plus.
In one lesson you might do a biology lab where you’d look at up-close images of cells taken with a microscope. Then you’d have to identify and label their parts and fill out a lab report. Or you could do a virtual chemistry lab, where you’d actually click on different pieces of lab equipment to mix the reagents and document the results.
Since you’re taking the class online, you can work on the labs anywhere, even in your bedroom at home. The animations and interactive parts make it feel like playing a game, and it’s honestly a pretty cool way to learn.
…And In-Person Teacher Support
Classes at SSLC aren’t just between you and the computer, though. There are teachers available in the main lab who can always answer questions and help you understand the material, whether that means explaining things a different way or helping you look up more information.
Sometimes, you’ll also get assigned additional projects that are more hands-on than the virtual lessons. They’re also more self-guided. The teacher will ask you to build a teaching tool or model that could be used to supplement a lesson, and you get to decide which lesson and what kind of model makes sense.
Learning-by-teaching is a fun, different way to cover the material. Building a physical model of a cell, or a solar system, or a working volcano (or whatever else you’re interested in trying) is a nice break from online lessons.
There Are Other Hands-On Opportunities, Too
Of course, you can’t talk about science at SSLC without also mentioning the Smart Lab, which is a STEAM learning environment. STEAM means science, technology, engineering, art, and math – and you have to think about all of those subjects and how they work together in order to finish projects in there. This hands-on science learning approach provides another way to learn science ideas with real-world applications.
“That sounds like a lot of fun,” you say, thinking back to your own classes. “Especially the part where you can decide what to work on and how to do it. I wish my school was like that.”
“You should transfer over,” your friend urges. “Or at least have your parents call and ask for more information. Maybe schedule a tour so you can see it in action. And then we could work on projects together!”
He’s got a point, you think. Maybe it is time to do school differently…