As is the routine in all of our labs, students had to maintain a lab packet, follow the scientific method and answer reflective questions, but the inquiry itself was occurring virtually on screen. Students were provided with a link to Rutgers University's online biology labs and completed Lab #2 on Cell Reproduction.
During this lab, students viewed a sample of plant cells (onion root tip), as well as animal cells (whitefish blastulae) and identified the stages of mitosis. They also had to reflect on the differences in the stages in each sample. Also important, students always must make sketches of what they have seen in order to properly visualize the concept or task at hand, and also to look back to in their science journals for reference.
Finally, after completing the steps of the virtual lab, they answered thoughtful and inferential questions in their packets designed for them to draw on their knowledge and reflect on what they have seen. The packet that we used is shown below:
Yesterday was our first attempt at a true, independent virtual lab and it was very successful. While I value the experience of preparing slides and looking through scopes at real samples, virtual labs are a great way to capture particular events or processes in a cell that might otherwise be missed in a classroom-prepared slide. Virtual labs are also particularly important when supplies are limited so that students can still see and experience the concepts rather than just reading or hearing about them. Particularly when we delve into the physical sciences, it can often be difficult to model certain natural phenomena in the classroom and I look forward to incorporating more virtual labs into the curriculum.