Sarah Sweazy


Return to: ETAP 623 Fall 2020 (Zhang) | Sarah Sweazy | Hands on Learning Benefits Through Virtual Science Labs

About Me


My name is Sarah Sweazy and I am a Sixth Grade Science teacher! I graduated from SUNY Fredonia in 2019 with my Bachelors of Science in Education obtaining a Childhood Inclusive Education Degree. I am certified in Childhood Education grades 1-6 as well as Special Education grades 1-6.

I like to utilize hands-on learning and project based learning to engage my students in content. As a science teacher it is always my goal to make learning fun and meaningful for my students. I look forward to using this platform to better my teaching practices and to collaborate with other educators in similar learning experiences as my own.

My Topic and Purpose

The topic of this mini course is Hands-on Learning Through Virtual Science Labs. The purpose of the course is to teach science educators how to utilize virtual science labs while still creating that hands-on learning experience even through a computer. In today's day and age, virtual learning is huge and science educators like myself are struggling to engage our students in hands-on and fun learning through electronic means. This course will help educate teachers on how to get the best of both worlds when it comes to science education through a computer.

Scope of Learning Outcomes and Content

After completing this course, KNILT educators will learn:

1. The benefits of hands-on learning in a science classroom setting

2. Examples of virtual based hands on learning

3. How to connect virtual labs to the Next Generation Science Standards for their science topic

4. How to incorporate virtual lab or virtual resources into a lesson plan format that utilizes the benefits of hands-on learning through a computer or virtual setting

Needs Assessment and Learner Analysis

Instructional Problem

Hands on learning has been a growing idea in classrooms across the globe to improve student learning outcomes. Science classrooms in particular have a dependency on hands on learning or "learning by doing" approach due to its heavy content and complex ideas that make more sense to children when they are actually working through what they are learning (Haury, D.L & Rillero, P., 1994). Not only does hands on learning help the students connect to what they are learning, but it also engages them in the learning as well. Student engagement is something that every teacher is striving for in their classrooms and sometimes the best engagement occurs when students can have fun, hands on experiences.

The instructional problem is "what if the world is making hands-on learning harder?". I am a Sixth Grade Science teacher in 2020 and have to teach to some students through a computer due to a national pandemic. For some teachers this is no different than in person teaching. They can post their presentation slides or a video of them writing on the board for the students and all is well. But for a Science teacher that encourages and carries out as much hands-on learning as possible, now I am stuck with the dilemma of having to find a way to create the same hands-on learning benefits through a computer screen or virtual learning scenario. In an article about technology and hands on instruction, the author explained that when given the choice to make a project "Many of our students chose to make something physical that demonstrated their understanding instead of delivering a virtual presentation. These were things that students could physically connect with, touch and tinker with to show understanding" (Passinisi, J. & Peters, S., 2014). From this the big question can be asked "how can I create this need to "touch and tinker" through a computer when students no longer have that choice of learning format. When teachers are trained and have experience in virtual options for hands-on learning, the gap in learning from what would have occurred in the classroom vs. what is being learned through a computer can decrease.

What is to be Learned

Learners will become informed about the benefits of hands-on learning in any classroom setting (in person and virtual). The learners will understand how hands-on learning is different through a computer screen but not impossible while exploring current virtual labs, virtual field trips, and other settings out there already. The learners will begin to develop a lesson plan for a learning experience that introduces hands-on learning through virtual settings to be carried out with their classes. Lastly, learners will reflect on their learning and how they will utilize the benefits of hands-on learning in all of their educational experiences.

The Learners

In general, this course will be used for educators and other educational professionals that are in a situation that they are teaching somewhat virtually (fully virtual, hybrid model of virtual, or in person teaching with a few students learning virtually). The learners will most likely fall under the science educators category, however hands-on learning benefits ALL subject areas and therefore this mini-course is relevant across the content realm.

Instructional Context

All instruction will take place online therefore students need to have some sort of electronic device (computer, tablet, smart phone, etc.) and will need internet. The students will be asked to dive in to multiple forms of resources ranging from video, audio, readings, as well as images. Students will need to be following the curriculum schedule of the course in order to stay on track with the learning objectives and outcomes. Lastly, the final assessment of the course will be for students to create their own lesson incorporating the virtual hands-on learning ideas that they learned about throughout the course.

Exploring the Problem and Solution

Students will utilize the many available virtual learning concepts out there to benefit their own unique instruction needs. Through readings and activities, the students will fully understand the benefits of hands-on learning and will agree that simply just cutting them out completely would negatively impact their students overall learning. Participants in this course will help find more unique ways to incorporate hands-on learning through the computer and present these ways in an individual lesson plan at the end of the course.


The main goal for this mini course is for the student to gain a better understanding of hands-on learning in general and the many positive benefits it has on student outcomes. They will work through the instructional problem of virtual learning and how it limits the hands-on learning opportunities for their students. Lastly, after browsing and engaging with current virtual labs, virtual field trips, etc., they will develop a lesson plan for their own virtual students that engages them in some sort of activity that demonstrates the same or similar benefits to hands-on learning that would take place in a typical classroom setting.

Performance-Based Objectives

After completing this course, learners will be able to:

1. Describe the benefits of hands-on learning in a science classroom setting by explaining three examples of the benefits in a written format

2. Identify five examples of virtual based hands on learning after exploring multiple technological resources

3. Connect one virtual lab or online resource to the Next Generation Science Standards for their science topic and develop four hands-on learning outcomes for their students utilizing the virtual resource

4. Create their own virtual lab lesson plan that incorporates the benefits of hands-on learning through a computer or virtual setting within the given lesson plan format

Task Analysis

Prerequisites for this course include a brief understanding of what hands-on learning is, a proficient level of technological usage and experience, and a strong willingness to learn through technology!

Unit 1: What is hands-on learning and what are the benefits of this type of instruction?

By the end of this unit, learners will be able to:

- Describe the benefits of hands-on learning

- Identify examples of in-person hands-on learning

- Reflect on personal experiences of hands-on learning in either their teaching or learning

Unit 2: How can hands-on learning be done virtually?

By the end of this unit, learners will be able to:

- Research the question "what are virtual labs?"

- Examine current technological resources such as virtual labs or interactive media

- Participate in one virtual resource that was researched

- Describe the resource and how it relates to hands-on learning benefits

Unit 3: Connecting virtual labs and resources to my curriculum

By the end of this unit, learners will be able to:

- Analyze a virtual resource (positives, negatives, things you would change)

- Connect this resource to 1 or more learning standards

Unit 4: Design and implement a lesson containing virtual hands-on learning

By the end of this unit, learners will be able to:

- Given a lesson plan template, create a lesson containing at least one virtual hands-on resource

- Evaluate the effectiveness of the lesson by teaching this lesson to a class (whole group or small group) virtually

- Reflect on their learning through a Google Form

Curriculum Map

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References and Resources

Haury, D. L. & Rillero, P. (1994). Perspectives of hands-on science teaching. ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education: Columbus, OH. Retrieved from:

Passanisi, J. & Peters, S. (2014). Technology revitalizes hands-on education in classrooms. Scientific American. Retrieved from: