The Effects of COVID-19 on Science Education
COVID-19 has changed the traditional education model with teachers, parents and children adapting to remote learning and limiting learning gaps as much as possible. It has also impacted the way we view science and its role in keeping us safe. With these points in mind, we take a look at the effects of COVID-19 on science education and how it has inspired a new way of understanding.
Science in a COVID-19 context
From donating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to hospitals with supplies from school science labs (goggles, safety glasses, masks, disposable aprons, gloves and even 3D printers to make safety visors) to the clinical scientists working on a cure – the role of science has dramatically elevated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the crisis which launched families into lockdown and self-isolation, teachers and parents had to rely on news reports and social media to stay informed – and communicate with each other using apps, emails and video calls. We all wanted to know why COVID-19 was so contagious, the probability of infection, and how to protect ourselves – putting science in a fresh context. This sense of immediacy and urgency compelled us to know and understand more, which led families to seek further fundamental answers, like what a virus is and what antibodies are.
The COVID-19 virus has also put into context how science education is essential for everyday life, which may have been overlooked at school as a subject that seemed less appealing, harder to comprehend or pivotal as a career goal when compared to creative arts. According to TES.com, “In 1997/98 roughly one in seven youngsters didn’t even take maths or science GCSE and, of those that did, less than half gained a grade A-C, many mastering only half of the content. The majority would have emerged with little understanding of what was in any case an inappropriate curriculum. Little wonder today’s adult population is so poorly equipped in maths and science.”
The level of understanding science is reflected by the latest Google search trends that have been recorded during remote learning in lockdown, as outlined by FENews: “…the most enjoyable subjects for parents to teach are maths (49%), English (43%), history (27%), science (26%), and art (25%). Despite being deemed enjoyable, some of these subjects have also been challenging. Nearly a third of those surveyed said maths has been the most difficult to teach, followed by English (17%), science (15%), foreign languages (12%), history (7%) and I.T. (7%).”
However, the understanding that science exists outside of the classroom will inspire more people to make daily observations with a scientific eye: imagining how things function, hypothesizing, testing, and discussing the results and meanings. With information readily available from online resources with devices, like smartphones, tablets, laptops, the key focus is to motivate and stimulate children to continue learning about science until schools reopen. How? By promoting active discussions and engagement so that any learning gaps can be filled in at a later date – boosting a child’s confidence to get involved and not be afraid to ask about something they don’t know.
This not only puts the practical in science practical, it will inspire more of us to learn about science in a less rigid concept.
How we’re learning science from home
Since lockdown, learning science has been made more accessible. Ed tech companies and service providers have emerged with remote learning support. This has helped to bridge the virtual gap between school and home by providing teachers with innovative solutions to continue teaching science lessons… with what you can find in the kitchen cupboards. Plus, these fun, homemade experiments are ideal for supporting parents who have become interim science teachers at home.
There is a wide variety of fun and informative experiments that both teachers and parents can help children to set-up and learn from home. You can learn physics, such as the effects of air pressure on water with a bottle, straw, balloon and water. You can make your own chemistry creations, like an erupting volcano using baking soda, vinegar and food colouring. You can understand biology and how we breathe, by building a model of the human lungs using a plastic bottle, straws, a pair of balloons and some hot air!
You can also show students how to carry out COVID-19 themed tests and practicals, such as learning about viruses and what they look like. Children can even create their own soap and hand sanitizers from home – making science education a fun and engaging experience during a time when we’re relying on science to keep us safe.
“The most important thing for me is that these lessons teach young people how important science is in addressing global problems like COVID-19.” – Professor Sara Rankin, National Heart and Lung Institute
With COVID-19, science is connected to a global and personal life experience, which has given us new insights and inspiration to learn and ask more questions about what we don’t know with confidence.
To understand more, help bridge education gaps and to make remote learning as fun as possible, we want to support teachers (and parents too!) with Empiribox @ Home. This includes access to a vast library of KS1 and KS2 curriculum-aligned science resources for pupils – including interactive videos, worksheets, quizzes, adapted hands-on experiments and more! – all while they learn from home or back in the classroom.
From all of us at Empiribox, we hope this helps teachers, students and parents to stay safe and engaged during these unique times.