Hands-on online learning

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Saima Syeda

1 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Hands-on online learning

Alike other educational institutes, International School Dhaka (ISD) has entered into the seventh month of online schooling during the changing land space amid a pandemic.

Meanwhile, students have settled in and now reflect back to share the many new experiences they have gained through the online learning platform.

However, individuals outside the school community still continue to ask the same question: how are teachers making up for the knowledge and skills students obtaining through hands-on activities in the classroom?

Science teachers have overcome this obstacle through innovation, creativity, and resilience. MYP Specialist science teacher from ISD Lamza has moved to project-based learning where students are involved in experiments from growing mold on bread to constructing timelines.

His main goal is to have students learn scientific concepts by steering away from root memorization.

In addition to changing the approach in which students grasp knowledge, he is providing opportunities for students to learn away from the computer screen as much as possible, given that online screen-time presence is necessary for learning in their other courses.

ISD’s new physics teacher, Charles gets creative using a home-based experiment design. He helps students perceive their home space, rooftop, and gym as their laboratory, and their household and sports material as lab equipment for students to design their own experiment that displays physics concepts.

Charles’s goal is to have students feel comfortable when conducting experiments using equipment they are familiar with, such as basketballs and tennis balls used during their favorite hobbies. As student-designed lab experiments often require the help of their siblings and family members in collecting data, it provides a new opportunity for family bonding.

ISD’s experienced chemistry teacher Dr Rathod provides his students with practical lab activities that have local and global connections. Through his at-home lab experiments, he showed students that simple kitchen ingredients can be used as lab chemicals.

He had students use red-cabbage juice as pH indicators in order to determine the best brand of antacids available in their pharmacy. His goal is to help students see science in their everyday lives in the ingredients around them and in the store. Through his experiment, he helped students find a solution to a common medical problem in Bangladesh, acid reflux.

Despite the fact that the IB has removed DP Paper 3, the lab paper for the upcoming IB exam for Group 4 Subjects, I myself being The Head of Science department continue to find ways to have students conduct the prescribed labs at home.

Although the IB does not require students to gain these lab skills, we feel that students should not miss out on this experience as it is not only an important component in university but scientific thinking and the applications of the scientific method to problems are important skills to have. We have rewritten the IB prescribed science labs to allow students the chance to conduct them at home.

Examples of these adaptations include replacing lab enzymes with enzymes found in the kitchen, such as yeast for amylase, and pineapples which provide bromelain.

In order to continue encouraging and supporting ISD students to learn through lab experiments, ISD lab technicians Ameen and Afrin have also played a major part.

They have created a sign-out process to allow students to take out lab equipment and materials from school that students could otherwise not acquire on their own, in order for them to successfully complete their Internal Assessments.

They have also taken the time to create instructional lab videos to guide students when they conduct labs on their own. Constructing instructional lab videos not only reduces the anxiety for students when they conduct new lab activities, it allows students to re-watch and pause videos so that they can learn at their own pace.

As students see the effort and support put in by the science department to provide various opportunities for hands-on learning, they are encouraged and gain the drive to do so.


Writer is head of science department and biology teacher at International School Dhaka (ISD)