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Impact of Covid-19 on Science Education Spotlights Resilience of Upper School Students
By: Upper School Science Teacher Julie LaConte
The global pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of our lives for the past year, including how we teach and our school experiences. As we approach the one year anniversary of the introduction of COVID-19 protocols into our daily lives at Rossman School, I have taken some time to reflect on the impact I have felt teaching Upper School science during the pandemic.
In Upper School science, Rossman students explore topics in life, earth and physical sciences in hand-on, engaging ways. They question, predict, design experiments, analyze results and communicate their findings in scientific language. I enjoy the opportunity to teach the same students for three consecutive years and watch their growth as thinkers and learners. I am lucky to have the opportunity to develop close relationships with students based on our common shared experiences over the course of our time together.
When we moved to emergency virtual learning last spring and then returned to campus this school year in a very different setup, I struggled to make sense of how to incorporate a rich science experience into these new protocols.
I suddenly gave up my classroom to become a traveling teacher on a cart, moving to six different classrooms throughout the day. I gave up my lab tables where students eagerly share materials and work together in favor of socially distanced, plexiglass-enclosed desk spaces in their homeroom classes, while also incorporating students connecting virtually from home. Recreating every lesson across three grade levels to incorporate this “new normal” has been a daunting task.
As challenging as it has been, I am in awe of where we are six months later.
The Upper School science students have adapted to our procedures without a second thought. The level of flexibility they have shown and their willingness to try new things outside of their comfort zone has been inspiring. Experiments have often become demonstrations. Activities and games where students are moving freely through the classroom have been loaded into online apps or platforms for individual play. The pace of the lessons is often slower, as we pause to sanitize equipment, like microscopes, in between each student’s use and then load them onto my cart for transfer to another classroom.
But through it all, the depth of learning is still evident.
The students have been eager for each class and participated enthusiastically. They have been patient with the change in processes and helped work through glitches in new technology platforms and applications. They have remained positive, even when faced with the replacement of some anticipated traditional projects, with COVID-friendly alternatives. They have engaged in deep and thoughtful discussions about our usual topics of study, but also current health issues such as virus transmission and vaccine development, making important scientific connections to their real-world experiences.
I realized recently that the sixth graders have had a very unique experience in Upper School science. Their first year with me, in fourth grade, was “normal.” In fifth grade, their science experience started “normal” enough and was then disrupted in the spring as they transitioned to virtual learners. Now, they have returned in sixth grade back to campus, but a very different campus than they left. I decided to ask them about their experiences across Upper Science and how this has affected them.
“Upper Science is fun, mostly because of the variety of things we do. That helps us understand concepts more. It's also super cool when we get to do experiments and see what we are being taught in front of us.” —Anna
“I would say that my experience in science has been challenging but fun … It is always fun because you are always working on something.” —Tom
“I would describe Upper School science as interesting … I learned a lot of different things that I didn’t know. I even had fun during online! I first didn’t like science, but once I started Upper School science, it changed my perspective a lot.” —Maddie
“I would describe Upper School science as an interesting experience. I’m still a little shaken by the COVID experience but I'm happy that Rossman remained active. I'm especially interested in science as it's one of my favorite subjects. COVID has been a strange situation and I'm happy that in science Mrs. LaConte has been able to talk about the science of it.” —Christopher
The sixth graders’ responses showed me that even though it looks very different from years past, rich scientific learning is still clearly occurring.
Even more importantly, this year has instilled in our students the valuable skills of resilience, flexibility and determination that will serve them long after leaving the halls of Rossman School.
“Upper School science is amazing and cool.
Science is one of the reasons I want to go to school.
From photosynthesis, water cycle, and cells.
From domain, kingdom, phylum, to all the organelles.
Food chains and animals, physical and chemical changes.
Mrs. LaConte’s educational class is amazing for all ages.”
Rossman School, nestled on a 20-acre campus in St. Louis, is a private preparatory school for students in Junior Kindergarten (four years old) through Grade 6. The school’s mission is to provide a strong, well-balanced education in a nurturing school community committed to excellence. Dedicated to developing personal, nurturing relationships with each child, Rossman’s experienced educators provide a solid foundation in academics, athletics and arts while emphasizing strong character development and leadership skills. Request a free Rossman School brochure here.