LAWRENCE, Kan. – This month, school districts are preparing for another first day of school affected by COVID-19. The challenges that the pandemic has presented for teachers have been well documented in terms of distance learning. But COVID-19 has also changed the curriculum.
For example, how is science education changing in an age when students hear phrases like “Trust in science” every day?
“A lot of my students were getting their shots, and some of them were like, ‘I’m not sure I want to do this,'” said Betsy Lawrence, a science teacher at Olathe. “And the rest of them are like, ‘Well, that’s where my source of evidence is.'”
Lawrence says that in all of his lectures and classroom experiences, students learn to support their scientific claims.
“They have these questions and concerns and we do a lot to know our claim and find your evidence to back up our claim and why it matters to us, and seek credible resources,” Lawrence said.
Just like adults right now, there are differences of opinion with younger students. But Lawrence almost likes it, because she knows it’s part of what she’s trying to teach them.
“These rich conversations and questions are there as eighth graders,” Lawrence said. “And it’s fun to hear them almost like arguing because they have that scientific reasoning and that problem-solving brain.”
Andrea Graham teaches first year at Topeka. She says these COVID-19 issues start early.
“I work with six, seven and eight year olds, and I was very surprised and grateful for the questions they asked me,” Graham said. “But it made me realize that they were really thinking and absorbing what is going on in the world around them.”
At the University of Kansas at Lawrence, the next generation of teachers are also learning this new curriculum. Professors say they have a unique opportunity right now because students of all skill levels come to class with timely questions.
Dr Doug Ward is the Associate Director of the Center of pedagogical excellence at KU. He says the way students perceive the value of what they are learning has changed.
“COVID has really forced teachers of all kinds to consider, when I have students in person with me, what do I do to help them learn,” Ward said. “Students are asking for this stuff more and more. The instructors react to that and really try to make everything relevant to what they are doing. “
Dr Douglas Huffman, professor of science education at KU, agrees.
“I think this is going to help us get our elementary teacher candidates to understand what science really is,” Huffman said. “It’s not just about learning facts and information, it’s about trying to understand the evidence and the things that change so quickly.”
Lawrence says this class of students affected by COVID is proving they are up to the challenges that science so often provides.
“They just couldn’t get enough of it,” Lawrence said. “I felt like my students this year dug deeper than I’ve ever seen. They wanted to ask these questions, they really wanted to dig into the sources, or they wanted to go deeper and find new sources whatever science we were backing. “
Ward says similar educational changes are appearing in all kinds of subjects, including obvious subjects like history and political science as well as subjects like architecture, where students need to consider airflow for buildings d. ‘in a way that they’ve never done before.