Freshmen chemistry class adapts to distance learning.

Freshmen share their perspective on Ms. Staub’s at-home chemistry class

By Dylan Lee

The final block to concluding the 9th-grade’s academic year was Organic Chemistry. However, like the rest of the schools in the county, Waldorf School of the Peninsula was actively communicating with the community that our school will be closing to follow public health orders to mandate social distancing.

On March 19th, 2020, Governor Newsom said “we have to meet this moment… not just something to experience. It’s something to manifest, that our fate and future is inside of us. It’s decisions at the end of the day, not conditions that determine that fate in the future. We’re not victims of circumstance. We can make decisions to meet moments, and this is a moment we need to make tough decisions.”

As everyone was focused on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement on a statewide shelter-in-place order, Ms. Staub, our chemistry teacher was determined to redesign the Organic Chemistry block to create a conceptualized hands-on lab experience that would be replicated in our homes. The challenge ahead of her was to teach the curriculum over zoom all while keeping her students engaged whilst they did the lab experiments and exercises on their own at home.

First, the 9th grade received a detailed email with instructions on when and how to pick up the chemistry kits and proper social distancing protocols to follow when they entered the school premise. Since most of the 9th grade had been cooped up at home they had little idea what to expect That is until they saw the kits that Ms. Staub had put together. The full extent of careful planning that went into this project can be illustrated by the photos below.

Each student received tools, materials, chemical supplies, and solutions as well as personal goggles and a smart-looking freshly pressed lab coat. Ms. Staub met with the 9th grade three mornings a week on zoom. On the other two days, the 9th grade conducted the assigned experiments under the supervision of an adult at home. All of her students had access to her during her office hours and furthermore, she was very prompt in responding to text messages if additional help was needed.

By the end of the 5 week block each student had completed a total of 10 lab experiments. Instead of turning in a traditional main lesson book the 9th grade turned in the notebook that was provided in their kit, now filled with the student’s observations on the experiments they conducted and their notes.

Read below for more insights of the ninth grade students on their distance learning experience.

What was the hardest part of doing chemistry at home?

Stephen Lee: Following the instructions were a little tricky, because at school you could always ask the teacher a question right away, but when you’re doing the lab by yourself it’s a bit more tricky.

Dylan Lee: The hardest part was understanding the instructions. Since there was no teacher present while I did the experiments, I had to double and even triple check each step to make sure I was following the instruction correctly. Also being patient with the wait times for the experiments to do its thing was not the most fun. This is an eye opening moment for me because I understand the meaning of science and discovery in a deeper way.

What was it like doing chemistry in an at home environment?

Shiloh Nishan: It was definitely intimidating at first with the giant load of lab supplies, but it turned out to be pretty cool despite being all on my own and stuff. In the classroom there’s always a little bit of stress trying to get things done by when class is over, but at home it felt more laid back because I had all day to get it done.

Do you think doing chemistry at home was a “success”?

Zachary Siminoff: I think at home chemistry went very well. We missed out on real time instructions and help. We had to figure out everything mostly on our own which was a good learning experience.

Did you like having the freedom to do the chemistry experiment when you wanted?

Peter Xu: I loved the fact that I could decide when to work on my labs. Most days I would be able to get a few more hours of rest before starting my day. Having the freedom to choose when to do work probably has also affected the quality of work, as I could start working when I felt energized enough to be able to focus on the lab in front of me.

Isabelle Walker-Aguerro: Yes I found it incredibly helpful to be able to schedule the experiment time slot on my own terms. This way if there was a longer experiment, or my parent couldn’t be there I could adjust as necessary.

Sohei Wu: It was definitely nice to be able to choose when to do the experiments, although a lot of the time, for me, it mostly depended on when my parents were available to supervise. 

Being able to choose when to do the experiments was definitely nice, though, because then, I didn’t have to fret about finishing it in a certain time frame (other than that it had to be on that day).

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