Billings Senior High science teachers deliver hands-on learning during COVID-19

Posted at 6:00 AM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 08:17:21-04

BILLINGS - The last day of school is near, and during this time of online learning two science teachers at Billings Senior High School wanted to make sure their students got some hands-on learning to earn their final grade.

Craig Beals and Jennifer Biersdorf teamed up to make sure their students ended the year with a little learning fun.

"With chemistry, it's a very lab based course. There were so many activities that the kids were going to miss out on with the school closure for those last few months. And so Craig and I decided to come up with some fun activities that would be easy and safe for them to perform at home," Biersdorf said.

Their solution was assembling 167 home science lab kits.

“There are teachers all over the country, there are teachers all over Billings that are just trying to think of creative ways to inspire their kids to keep on learning, because it's hard. And for us, this is both an incentive to keep on learning, but also a reminder that we're here, and we're thinking about you and we want you to enjoy the distance learning as much as we possibly can," Beals said.

The experiments are something their classes were working up to, before COVID-19 came along.

"I'm really excited to see what doing a hands-on experiment will be like, especially chemistry, because Mr. Beals is really good about doing our AP chem lab, and we haven't done anything hands on yet this year, well, since we've been in quarantine," said Emma Martinsen, a senior getting ready to graduate from Billings Senior High School.

The kit will also serve as their final.

While students usually get the jitters come finals time, it had quite the opposite effect for junior Bryn Turnquist, who completed all of the experiments in one day.

"I actually was pretty excited because it's not a written final, it's a hands on, which is a lot easier to make sure you're doing things correctly because you'll be able to have like a visual affirmation of what you're doing. So yea, I was pretty excited and me and my little brother did it together, so it was kind of a fun, family activity," Turnquist said.

Designed to challenge students, it was also a test of creativity for their teachers.

"To be able to do things and find ways to make science exciting to learn about, that's always been the goal. And to sort of have that taken away, it was really good to be forced to be creative and figure out well, how do we jump back into this? And you know, I think we've done ok," Beals said.

With the help of his son and daughter, Beals said it took them two days to assemble the kits. Before that, it took them more than a month collecting the supplies needed for each project.

Anyone interested in trying some of the experiments can find directions here.