At first glance, a field trip described as both “virtual” and “hands-on” seems to be a bit contradictory. But for 13 Chaminade education students, their recent “field trip” with the United States Naval Academy was exactly that—a virtual, hands-on experience made possible by Chaminade’s partnership with the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
The students participated in a two-day virtual workshop to explore scientific phenomena related to waves, sound, reception, refraction, chemistry, circuits and more. For these aspiring teachers, the experience provided valuable tools for thinking about how to conduct their future classrooms and communicate complex scientific concepts.
“Zoom sessions and virtual fields trips are looking like the new norm for us, and as a future teacher, I need to start thinking of ways to still make school fun and interactive for students,” says Daysha Kau, a fourth-year Elementary Education major who participated in the workshop. “Many of the experiments we were shown and led through required easy-access materials that can be provided to students to continue hands-on learning, even if they aren’t physically in school.”
The workshops were provided by the United States Naval Academy STEM Center and were assisted by Engineers on Deck, a nonprofit that specializes in STEM teacher workshops. The students logged into the digital meeting platform, and followed instructions to conduct their own experiments from home.
“The United States Naval Academy made sure to clearly show us what to do with the experiments,” says Kau. “I was surprised at how simple everything was, and it was great to still be able to do hands-on experiments through virtual learning.”
The virtual field trip was a new type of experience for Kau. She particularly enjoyed playing with the hydrophobic sand, or sand that repels water.
“This sand, also called magic sand, has hydrophobic properties, so it repels water,” says Kau. “It was so cool to see the sand, when submerged in water, clumped together; however, when lifted out of the water with a spoon, the sand turned back into regular sand grains.”
But perhaps her biggest takeaway was seeing how the United States Naval Academy was able to demonstrate complex scientific concepts into easy-to-understand visualizations that even younger kids could comprehend—and in a virtual environment, no less.
For example, to demonstrate how sound waves travel, they used a metal slinky and shook it up and down at various paces. For younger children, they showed the education students how to demonstrate the concept using construction paper.
“They showed us how to make loops with paper strips, and then tape them onto a bigger piece of paper,” explains Kau. “When we tapped on the paper loops, they bounced. This also exemplified sound waves and the movement of sound.”
Kau sees this as an activity she can implement in her future classroom one day. “It not only gave me a better understanding of the concept, but it can also be used in a future elementary school classroom and help students interact with the concept.”
Kau, who is graduating in Spring of 2021, hopes to become a first- or second-grade teacher. She’s grateful for the opportunity to learn from the United States Naval Academy STEM Center, and she knows the skills she learned will prove valuable to her in the future.
“I believe this experience with the naval academy gave me more ideas on how to conduct hands-on science experiments and break down scientific concepts for students in those grade levels,” says Kau. “It really brought the concepts to life.”