An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Devin Parry, Upper School science teacher/department head

As I adapted the coursework for my Molecular & Cellular Biology class to remote learning, I temporarily pivoted away from what we would usually be studying at this point — cell structures and functions — to focus on the biology of viruses. Students were eager for a deeper understanding of this coronavirus, COVID-19.

The first few days of remote learning involved readings in our e-text and answering accompanying questions through an online platform called Mastering Biology, which we already use for class. This gave students the basic virology background they needed to start understanding the coronavirus pandemic.

Students also read several recent articles about the pandemic, like this Washington Post article on social distancing and “flattening the curve,” and this article about how researchers at the Hutch/UW used genome sequencing information to track the spread of COVID-19 in our area, and discussed them in our Microsoft Teams chat.

I was really blown away by how the students dove into reading and discussing those articles. They had a lot of questions and many of them were answered by other students, or themselves, by doing research on their own.

Students are now working on a culminating project for this mini-unit on virology: creating infographics about coronavirus. They are working in groups (based on groups we had earlier established for a fermentation project, which is why groups have names like Cheesy Time and Kombuuuucha!) to create a slide deck where each slide addresses some aspect of the coronavirus pandemic — answering a question that came up in the discussion, describing why washing hands is so effective, comparing to other pandemics, etc.

Throughout this unit, and the transition to remote learning, the level of student engagement has been super high. They are invested in this learning because they feel like it matters and is relevant, and they are showing curiosity, practicing research skills, interpreting data, and collaborating in new ways!

Check out the student infographics here