Our science curriculum is developed around giving pupils the opportunity to learn through discovery, and working with materials and chemicals gives pupils a more profound understanding of science. With our school moving to the online learning approach, not being able to do experiments in the laboratory has been a major challenge for St. Paul’s science teachers and has forced them to come out of their comfort zone and be creative in how they teach practical work.
One example of this is a software that is being used to create virtual experiments where pupils can have an experience of doing practical work and designing experiments, making observations and collecting data, processing the data and making conclusions from it.
Form 3 pupils are currently studying rates of reaction, one of the most practically based topics on the chemistry curriculum. Teachers used a virtual experiment software to create a lesson where pupils can add chemicals together and watch as the mass changes or volume changes and then record the data. Pupils collected their data using a spreadsheet and used spreadsheet functions to calculate the rate of reaction, and then took this data to create a graph showing the rate of reaction for different surface areas and concentrations of acid.
Of course, conducting the virtual experiment is not quite the same as doing the real thing and we can’t wait to get back to our hands-on experiences here in school. However, the key skills of observation, data collection, data processing, conclusion and evaluation are still clearly being tested, allowing pupils to develop their scientific thinking in new ways.