Chemistry in COVID-19

Chemistry+in+COVID-19

Ellie Kennedy, FCHS Journalist

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COVID-19 has changed many in-person learning experiences, but especially those topics which require hands-on learning such as Chemistry teacher Carolynne Hagan‘s class.

Juggling hands-on activities in person with videos that theoretically recreate the experience has been a huge challenge,” Hagan said. “You can watch someone pipet all day long, but until you suck the solution into the bulb accidentally a couple of times, you’ll never get the hang of it.  There are certain things that just can’t be done online. It is also a bummer that in-person students haven’t gotten to do experiments that involve fire since masks are flammable,” she added.

COVID-19 has taken a significant toll on chemistry classes, and labs aren’t the same with many virtual students. It is hard to get the real lab experience over a computer. Virtual students are watching someone perform the lab through the computer, which takes all the hands-on experience away from the student. It is also a challenge to get a fire lab in while wearing a mask as they present a considerable hazard when dealing with fire. If the flame were to get close to your face, the mask could catch on fire.

This year has been a challenge for Hagan since she has had to change the way she teaches chemistry, but she has endeavored to still make the best out of it. “My favorite thing about teaching, in general, is interacting with teens. Someone makes me laugh every day. My favorite thing about teaching chemistry is relating some of what I teach to my own experiences working in the forensic drug section of a crime lab. Even the most disengaged student usually perks up when I talk about how you analyze crack versus powder cocaine,” said Hagan. Her background experience in the forensic drug section of a crime lab has come in handy for a chemistry class. 

With all this time spent figuring out a new way to teach, Hagan focuses on doing the things she enjoyed the most when she’s not at school. “I enjoy hanging out with my kids, walking my dog, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, and going to wineries,” she said.

As COVID-19 is becoming more controlled and vaccines continue to roll out to more ages, there is hope that high school learning will eventually return to some semblance of normal. Things appear to be looking up, so hopefully by the time next school year rolls around, masks will be a thing of the past and unencumbered chemistry experiments will be a thing of the present.