This year amidst the pandemic, social unrest, shifting schedules, and remote and hybrid teaching, many of the science faculty have had the opportunity to reflect on everything they do as educators. In the spring of 2020, emergency remote teaching forced many of them to reframe and shift their lessons due to distance learning.
The faculty provided kits for many science courses so students could continue doing hands-on science labs at home. At the same time, they all dug into current events and built their curriculum around the pandemic. Activities in the classroom included responding to racism associated with the coronavirus, exploring long-standing systemic health and social inequities that have put a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on communities of color, and allowing students to analyze publicly available real-time COVID-19 sequence data. At the same time, students studied the coronavirus and explored the physics of COVID transmission. They examined the way decisions in medical ethics are embedded in our social and cultural fabric. COVID-19 has made social inequities and ethical concerns more visible and urgent than ever.
Science historically has been framed as objective. Yet, scientists are people, and science isn't done in a vacuum. Over the last year, in particular, the MA science department has explored what's not working in science education around representation and racism and how they can teach science more inclusively. Science is not culture-free. The pandemic and social unrest brought to the forefront how important it is to contextualize science and engage students in meaningful conversations about social inequities and institutionalized racism.
While the science faculty had to reinvent themselves to teach remotely in the face of all the 2020-2021 school year's challenges, they also needed to adjust the curriculum to include less teaching time. As educators, they make choices about what to include and what to omit with their teaching lessons. Techniques that have lent themselves well to remote and hybrid learning to optimize student participation and engagement also foster inclusivity. For example, when designing lesson plans they ask—who is left out and behind? They chose to grow as remote and online teachers and actively work to prioritize equity, inclusion, and justice in their curriculum. They are committed to continuing to grow as both science and anti-racist educators.