Students in APES were given over 400 entries for tombstones from pre- and post-1900, and they graphed the data as a way to determine the rate of survivorship between age ranges. “You lose out on the real world sense of observing patterns or [gathering] data,” junior APES student Alvin Ye said. “We are limited to a screen, and you feel as if you are just [doing] another assignment and not a lab.” Photo courtesy of Jennifer Wright

Modified sciences labs impact courses, students, teachers

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Due to distance learning, the science department has had to either delay or modify their labs. The decision raised concerns among students and teachers in regards to how they will proceed with the year. 

Honors and AP Chemistry teacher Ryan Wong said that labs have not been conducted because there is no way to enforce safety protocol. Teachers are currently unaware of the situations in students’ homes and the supplies they have access to, leading to uncertainty about how to conduct labs. Wong has been collaborating with those in similar circumstances as his own. 

“[I] have a shared group [with AP Chemistry teachers throughout the country],” Wong said. “[We have] been bouncing off ideas with each other with online lab demonstrations that we can run with the students that helps get the point across since we cannot run experiments in an in-person setting with all the materials and supplies that we normally would have access to.” 

Regular and AP Environmental Science (APES) teacher Jennifer Wright modified and voided certain labs including the eco column as it required hands-on-work with water quality and soil testing. These labs were switched out in favor of ones that required less hands-on work. APES recently performed a demographics lab, which placed heavy emphasis on data analysis. 

“[Students had] to go through this list of [over] 430 entries for tombstones [and] calculate, [as well as],  create a demographic aid structure so they could graph survivorship curves,” Wright said. 

As a result of postponed labs, students enrolled in science courses expressed concern regarding being unprepared for future science courses. Sophomore Gordon Lin, currently taking Honors Chemistry, said that by not doing labs, he may not grasp concepts that otherwise would have been taught this year. 

“I am certain that we will be sitting ducks when [we enter AP science courses],” Lin said. “AP science[s] [are] college-level course[s], and I am sure that [the College Board] will [show] no mercy when it comes to labs.” 

The College Board has a lab manual containing all of the mandatory lab experiments that the AP Chemistry class has to run throughout the school year. Wright said that the College Board requires students to spend 25% of the overall course time performing lab work. Unable to perform labs in-person, senior AP Physics C student Nathan Chung worries about lacking the knowledge that they need in the future. 

“I wish I knew how to [properly] conduct physics labs because [I have only experienced a few throughout my two years as an AP Physics student],” Chung said. “If labs were to show up in college, I would like to know [what] a lab is like prior.” 

AP Chemistry and Physics classes have postponed their labs until before the AP exams. This decision was made with the intent of providing teachers an opportunity to seek alternatives for labs or wait for the College Board’s guidance on how to proceed for the duration of the year.

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