When COVID-19 hit the United States, our lifestyles drastically changed. People needed to adapt to this new way of living and find new ways to stay active, shop, and conduct their job duties. Education was no different! Educators needed to find new ways to teach online and engage their students because they quickly learned that what used to work in a classroom setting doesn’t necessarily work online.
Getting students to engage in a discussion about thermal energy and the different stages of matter can be challenging even during in-seat instruction. However, trying to engage students in these challenging topics online was proving to be even more difficult. That is when two seventh grade science teachers from Diamond Valley Middle School created an academic battle between their two classes.
It all started when Mr. Monge challenged the students in Mr. Saldana’s class. Mr. Saldana accessed Mr. Monge’s Google classroom and challenged the students to prove that they could beat his class in an academic battle. The classes merged together virtually and began chatting excitedly in the chat function of Google Meets. Mr. Monge began asking students questions based on information students were learning in class. As soon as a student knew the answer they would type it into the chatbox. The first student to get the correct answer, with correct spelling, was awarded a point for their class.
Each of the questions the students was asked led to the explanation of an experiment Mr. Saldana performed. Soon students began making the connection between their questions, such as “What is thermal energy?” “What state of matter is water?” “The beaker looks empty, but what is inside the beaker?” These questions led to Mr. Saldana heating up a beaker with a deflated balloon covering the opening. As he heated the beaker, students realized that by adding thermal energy to a beaker with a gas (air), it caused the balloon to inflate.
“What works in a typical classroom doesn’t always work online, so we are challenging old beliefs and testing everything to see how to make distance learning more enjoyable, productive, and engaging for our students,” wrote Mr. Saldana.
Most notably throughout this process was the engagement of the students throughout the class period and they enjoyed the idea of a little friendly competition. Throughout the lesson, students would message their classmates saying “Come on guys we got this; we will beat Mr. Monge’s class.” It seemed that their excitement did not end at the end of the class period. In fact, the following Monday students were still talking about their positive experiences during the class.
Principal Jonathan Workman said, “Mr. Saldana and Mr. Monge both are excellent examples of how teachers are working hard during this pandemic to put kids first and make sure that learning continues to happen.”