Distance Learning Raises Concerns With Teaching STEAM Programs

NBC Universal, Inc.

With kids learning through their computers at home, some teachers are wondering what this could mean for STEAM -- science, technology, engineering, art and math -- programs.

Rick Lapworth, a science teacher at Felix Varela High School, was awarded funding from a national society to help underserved groups research at home through the pandemic. He spoke to NBC 6 anchor Sheli Muñiz.

SHELI: What are your big concerns regarding STEAM through distance learning?

LAPWORTH: Well, during the pandemic while we're in phase one, where school begins this Monday, we're trying to connect with students that are doing repeats with last year's projects, but we can't see them face-to-face and they can’t come after school for meetings. So, we're kind of scratching our heads on how to reach out, find different ways of communicating with Zoom meetings and stuff. Because with robotic competitions, building bridges, doing science fair projects, using equipment, you're face-to-face. You're not social distancing and you're touching things like beakers that may transmit the virus. Even when they come back, they don't want them touching equipment right away. 

SHELI: Could the pandemic further disparities in the field among underrepresented groups and low-income households?

LAPWORTH: Possibly. Part of doing a Zoom meeting is having stable internet connection with relatively high speed and good bandwidth, and if a family doesn't have that, then you can't meet with a child. The district's giving out all laptops and tech devices to the families that need it, but yeah, there could be more disparities than in the past.

SHELI: The Society for Science and the Public named a number of advocates across the country, each gets an award to help students not fall behind in the STEM field. What does this mean for your students?

LAPWORTH: The reason I'm an advocate is our school having about 70% of free and reduced lunch and has a lot of disenfranchised demographics. The Society wants to reach out through advocates like me and get the demographic pipeline into STEAM research bigger so that the whole population is represented, not just those with a higher income.

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