Jessica Freeman, science intervention teacher at The Carver School for Mathematics, Science, and Technology, is always looking for innovative classroom experiments to engage her elementary and middle school students in the scientific discovery process. While the pandemic has created some challenges, delivering hands-on, technology-enabled learning opportunities continues to remain a top priority for Freeman.

“Our students really like using technology—it makes them feel important, like real scientists,” said Freeman. “It also really helps them stay engaged and actively involved in scientific investigations.”

Supporting Safe Experimentation

When students had the option to return to their school for in-person instruction, there were new protocols to keep both students and staff safe. These included wearing masks and implementing a new schedule that had teachers, instead of students, move from classroom to classroom to limit contact.

“Other than phys ed, the only time students would move rooms was to come to my lab with their science teacher,” said Freeman, who helps facilitate student labs at the school, as well as runs the school’s science fair and Science Olympiad. “I thoroughly sanitize in between each class and, now, if students work together, it is limited to pairs only.”

Since COVID, Freeman has been presenting various experiments from Vernier Software & Technology, such as her adapted version of Get a Grip!—Experiment 17 from Elementary Science with Vernier—using Google Slides™ and having students submit their experiment data sets via Google Classroom.

“We’ve used online technology for years, but we’ve really ramped up using it since returning to school during the pandemic, as our new protocols cut down on the sharing and touching of pencils and materials,” said Freeman. “I could definitely see using more and more technology long term—in addition to the safety aspect, technology has given us more time for hands-on learning and collaboration during class.”

During the Get a Grip! experiment, sixth grade students use the Go Direct® Hand Dynamometer to measure their grip strength as a way to learn about force and Newton’s laws. Students collect data using the sensor and then analyze it on their Chromebook™ using the Vernier Graphical Analysis™ app.

“This experiment enables students to see which hand has the greater grip strength and helps them understand how grip strength changes over time,” said Freeman. “Students are then able to share and collaborate with their classmates to compare their findings, all in a safe and effective way.”

Utilizing a Wide Range of Technology

In Freeman’s experiment for fifth grade, students learn how to use a Vernier temperature probe and how to perform data analysis with Vernier LabQuest® interfaces. “In addition to each of our students having a Chromebook, they have access to a wide range of sensors from Vernier, including temperature, gas pressure, motion detector, force, light, magnetic field, voltage, UVA, UVB, pH, and EKG, to name a few,” said Freeman. “These are used throughout a variety of our labs to help students collect and analyze data.”

The school also has enough microscopes for one-to-one use in each class, which is beneficial during in-person experimentation. Freeman also uses a ProScope™  5MP Microscope Camera on her teacher microscope to project onto a television in the lab. 

She additionally uses the Vernier LabQuest Viewer® software to see individual devices as students work through investigations. “I can display what they are doing on their devices as examples and even control their devices as needed to help them,” said Freeman.

“As the name implies, our school is really focused on STEM education and the use of all of this technology—both prior to COVID and now—continues to really help students make sense of what they are learning in a fun and engaging way,” said Freeman. “We really encourage our students to think outside of the box when it comes to science and they will often come to me to help them integrate technology into their science projects to add a level of sophistication to what they are doing.”

About the Educator

Jessica Freeman
The Carver School for Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Dothan, AL

Jessica Freeman is the science intervention teacher at The Carver School for Mathematics, Science, and Technology where she helps facilitate hands-on science labs for students in grades 3–6. Prior to this, she was a high school biology and AP biology teacher.