Design Distance Learning Science Labs with Everyday Objects

Distance learning science labs make learning at home fun! No need for fancy equipment – just use everyday objects. Include response sheets that work for any family. After the lab, ask kids to watch videos that reinforce concepts.

Ms. Sneed Designs Distance Learning Science Labs

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, sat at the computer in her bathrobe. “How can I continue effective science instruction during the coronavirus school closure?” she asked herself.

She flicked through her science lesson plans and sighed deeply. The kids would miss the light and sound stations – always so much fun. Her shoulders slumped.

Then, as she took a swig of her coffee, her eyes opened wide. What if the kids did the science stations at home?

Use Everyday Objects for Distance Learning Science Labs

As Ms. Sneed studied her light stations lesson plans, she noticed that most materials were commonly found in ordinary households. For example, in the first lab, students used three mirrors, paper, pencils, a book, and a flashlight.

Suggest Alternate Materials

Although most of those objects could be found at home, the mirrors might be a problem. “What else could kids use to reflect light?” Ms. Sneed thought. She walked to the kitchen and opened a few drawers. Soon, armed with a sheet of foil and her emergency flashlight, she tested it out. Yep, foil could be listed as an alternative.

Ms. Sneed looked through the materials needed for other stations. Most used objects found in homes: plastic wrap, cups, water, pencils. However, at the final station, she always used a prism. Hmm. Then she remembered that her teaching partner, Mr. Frank, had once used a CD to show how light separates into the visible spectrum.

Explain How to Make Solutions

That final lab also required bubbles. Some people would have them; some wouldn’t. But couldn’t they make bubbles with ordinary dish soap? Yes, she would suggest that.

Provide Links for Purchasing Materials

Ms. Sneed continued to think about the materials students would use for their at-home light labs. Some parents, she knew, would rather purchase them than seek alternatives. Therefore, she decided to provide links for inexpensive mirrors and prisms too.

When designing distance learning science labs, offer alternate materials. That way, kids can conduct activities - even if they don't have the correct supplies.

Offer Lab Sheets in Different Formats

How would students respond?

At school, kids carried a printed packet through their stations. Yes, that worked well. But what if families didn’t have a printer?

Next, she imagined her students using a laptop or tablet. That would also work. However, some wouldn’t have access to a device.

Finally, she considered no response at all. Initially, the thought freaked her out. She was a teacher; she expected a product – and a grade. Unfortunately, circumstances had changed. Could kids learn the concepts without responding? Surprisingly, she felt the answer was yes. Ms. Sneed breathed a sigh of relief.

For distance learning science, offer lab sheets in different formats. Some families will prefer printed pages; others will work online.

She decided to offer each lab sheet in two formats: printable PDF and editable Google Slides. That way, those who wanted to print could print. Those who wanted to work online could do that instead. And now she felt okay about those who completed no lab sheet at all.

Provide Links to Videos

At school, Ms. Sneed always debriefed after each science lab. That way, kids didn’t foster misconceptions about their results. How could this happen at home? She tapped her finger in thought. Videos!

Ms. Sneed headed to YouTube. With little trouble, she found six short videos that reinforced the concepts for her light labs.

Add videos to your distance learning science labs.

Just then, Ms. Sneed received a text from Mr. Frank, her teaching partner. “Any thoughts on science instruction?”

“Yes! I think I’ve got it figured out,” she responded. “The kids can use everyday items to conduct the light labs. And videos can reinforce topics.”

Extend Learning with Fun Activities

“How about some fun extensions?” Mr. Frank replied.

“Remember the shadow activities we did a few years ago?” he continued.

“Those will be perfect!” she responded. “Hey, I have light covered. Why don’t you start working on sound? Can I call you in an hour or so?”

Extend distance learning science labs with fun activities that reinforce concepts.

Match Your Standards and Assessments

Ms. Sneed pulled out the light review and assessment. If the kids did the labs at home, they’d be ready to test when they returned to school. Everything matched their standards: the activities, the videos, even the extensions.

Science labs conducted at home can't be all fun and games. Make sure you meet your standards.

Create Distance Learning Science Labs Using Online Platforms

Organize Your Files

Ms. Sneed created a new folder on her computer: Distance Learning Science Labs. Then she saved copies of her light materials in the folder. Finally, she set to work converting them for digital use:

Choose the Online Delivery Platform That Works for You

As she worked, Ms. Sneed considered ways to deliver the science labs to her students. However she did it, the platform must include directions (and maybe photos), links to the lab sheets, and links to the videos. If she sent each separately, kids and their parents may be confused. Hmm. Maybe she could create a set of Google Slides or a Google Site. In the end, Ms. Sneed decided to use her WordPress site to host her distance learning light labs.

When creating distance learning science labs, house everything in an online platform.

Several hours later, she shared the module with Mr. Frank and gave him a call. “Sorry, time got away from me. But I did finish the light labs. I just sent you the link.”

“This is fantastic!” Mr. Frank exclaimed. “I can use the same format for the sound labs.”

“And then we can work on heat and electricity. A teacher’s work never ends!”

Enjoy Teaching

Our favorite fourth grade teacher still wasn’t sure about this whole distance learning thing. She missed her students and their face-to-face interaction. However, as she shared the URL, a hint of that famous teacher smile lit her face. Offering engaging activities for kids to do at home made the world seem a little brighter.

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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