Chemistry Labs Return, Adapt to COVID Protocols

In the era of COVID-19, science classes adapted by utilizing virtual labs last year. Now, lost lab skills are coming back to bite IB Chemistry 2 seniors.

Even in the 4th quarter of last year with a mix of in-person and virtual students, the science department decided to keep the virtual labs for social distancing and equity of education.

“We weren’t sure of the safety of moving kids into the same lab space,” chemistry teacher Diane Clark said. “We thought that managing three to six feet during a lab setting was just going to be too difficult.”

Virtual labs took a toll on IB Chemistry 2 student and senior Keerthi Chakravarthula.

“With the virtual world, there were definitely times when I didn’t understand a concept, and because I couldn’t physically see it, I had a hard time interpreting the problems during a test,” Chakravarthula said.

This year, with social distancing, assigned seats for contact tracing and more vaccinated students, Clark said she feels better about teaching in the lab.

“I’m a little more relaxed this fall than I was in the spring, even though we were in person in the spring,” Clark said.  “The circumstances are different with the vaccines.”

Students usually take IB Chem 1 and 2 classes in their sophomore and senior years, which means there is a year in between without instruction. Chakravarthula was a sophomore in IB Chem 1 when COVID shut everything down, so last year’s fully virtual “catch-up” year did not help her learn important lab skills she missed in sophomore year.

“Last year, we adapted and created a full year […] We picked out what was important, so that when they got back this year, it wasn’t gonna be a bust,” Clark said. “It’s the [Chem 2] seniors I feel bad for because there was no adaptation to help them.”