Virtual Experiments

JPS Science Teachers Present Subject In New Ways

JHS Regents Chemistry teacher, Amy Siderits, teaches a virtual lab called Evidence of Chemical Change. The purpose of the lab is to show the four different signs that a chemical reaction has occurred.

Jefferson Middle School AT Science students in Jess Muscaro’s class are using a new technology tool to help them with their virtual science learning called Inq-ITS. It is an on-line science platform with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned simulations across science content areas that allows students to set up their own experiments, collect data, and analyze their own results. Students show what they know and educators get real-time, actionable data to inform whole class instruction or one-on-one support.

“I found out about Inq-ITS last spring as a resource for distance learning,” said Muscaro. I really like how students can change the variables in their labs on-line and run tests just like a real-life experiment. I had a lot of success with it in the spring. Students love it; especially the students who are hands-on learners. This program helps keep students engaged in science at home.”

In the program, students must come up with their hypothesis, conduct the experiment and add to their results section. The program also requires students to do claim evidence responses where they have to make a claim, present their evidence and explain how the evidence supports the claim, which are all part of the NGSS.

“This program is so cool,” said Jefferson seventh grader, Wyatt Olmstead. “It helps me do an experiment digitally so I can really see an example of what happens instead of just reading about it. I love science. My whole family is scientists and I want to study reptiles when I grow up.”

Muscaro is just one of many JPS science teachers who are finding ways to reach their students during COVID-19. The Chadakoin River was the scene of a science experiment in Kim Barber’s Jamestown High School AP Environmental Science class. Barber used the city’s river as an opportunity to do a water quality index experiment as part of the student’s study of pollution. There are four main sections: water, air, land and toxins. Every year the class does an experiment here, but this year is different, the students are taking the class virtually and this is the first time they masked and socially distanced a class experiment together.

“It is important that they understand the parameters the Clean Water Act uses in regards to ‘clean’ water and not just a ‘yuck’ factor that laypersons would use,” said Mrs. Barber. “I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to perform this lab due to scheduling conflicts, but the students’ other teachers let me have them for the extended afternoon time, and I am grateful.”

Barber was glad to have students actually perform the tests and gather the data as opposed to just observing a demonstration of the experiment. While the weather cooperates she hopes to do more labs outdoors.

JHS Regents Chemistry teacher, Amy Siderits, is conducting experiments virtually too. She has set up a “science studio” in her room complete with lights, backdrop, projector and laptop to beam her experiments.

“Labs are a challenge virtually and a learning process for what works – labs that are more observation based in nature have worked better than ones where measurements are involved,” said Siderits. “Every week I have to consider what lab fits the topic covered for the week and how I can adapt it so that the students may see it on camera. Labs are important because it is already an abstract topic. Students have to be able to visualize what is being taught and labs help create mental pictures.  I have to be even more creative than usual and work to develop relationships with my students. “

Siderits is also teaching Anatomy & Physiology, a highly lab-based course.  Some of the labs will still work but microscope labs will have to be adapted to students searching for micrographs online, analyzing their results and selecting the appropriate image to “drop” into their lab for each requested cell or tissue type. Other labs are a challenge since students are limited to at-home materials. For example, students used bananas to learn terminology related to body parts like: transverse, longitudinal, frontal, and midsagittal.

Ring Elementary School second grade teacher, Marcie Centi, is sending home science projects for virtual Fridays. A recent project for her class was a Mystery Science exploration. The primary goal was to be nature observers, but the tutorial also explained WHY leaves change their color and touched on plant life cycles. Students walked through how to explore the leaves around their neighborhoods by making a leaf rubbing and looking at the leaf attributes to determine what type of tree it came from. 

“All areas of study are important and so interconnected,” said Centi. “Being observers of the world around them builds knowledge that they can then tie to text when we read about plants and animals for a deeper understanding. Our goal is always to create life-long learners and what better way to spark curiosity and a desire to learn more than to look at the world around us and wonder ‘why?’ Science is the application of reading and math…and it’s fun!”


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