Science education in times of COVID-19
COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, is an emerging, unprecedented, rapidly-evolving situation. It’s of concern to everyone because of its high level of transmission and risk of serious illness and death to those who contract it.
The virus can be serious for anyone, regardless of their age: even previously healthy, young people have gotten seriously ill and even died from COVID-19. But statistically speaking, the virus is especially dangerous for the elderly and for those with certain underlying medical conditions, like obesity, diabetes, asthma.
In a matter of months, COVID-19 has led to drastic changes to many aspects of day to day life, to try to mitigate the spread of the virus and to protect the most vulnerable.
Given the complexity of this issue, the public health and economic impact, the role of individual actions in determining collective outcomes, and the ever-increasing knowledge about this previously unknown virus, it’s clear that this is serious and complex issue for individuals to navigate, as well as for governments and health authorities to plan for.
Science education and science literacy as a tool to ensure individual safety
But at Lab4U, we believe it’s especially important to consider the impact of this pandemic on educational communities around the world, and to shine a light on the importance of science education and science literacy as a tool to ensure individual safety in situations like the one we’re currently living, and to combat misinformation, keeping us all safer and accelerating the end of the pandemic.
In the last few months, we’ve been bombarded by information—some of it true, some of it misleading, and much of it shifting as experts learn more about this novel virus.
To understand this situation, and how best to react, it’s important to think critically, to responsibly consume and share information, and to understand how the scientific process can lead to changing recommendations from public health professionals.
Let’s take a specific example: the use of masks in public spaces. Early in the pandemic, the advice of the WHO and health authorities around the world was that masks were not recommended for individual use.
In part, this was due to a lack of evidence about the effectiveness of mask use at curbing spread among individuals outside of hospital settings. But it was also intended to avoid shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) that doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals depend on to stay safe on the job due to a run on these products due to panic buying by individuals.
Later in the pandemic, the advice of public health officials changed. The US CDC and others encouraged everyone to use non-medical-grade masks in public spaces.
Why did guidance change?
Why did guidance change? For a variety of reasons. Yet for some, the seeming about-face has led to mistrust. Those with an understanding of the process of scientific research and discovery may be more tolerant of these shifts, because they understand that the shifting guidance reflects the scientific process and an ever-evolving understanding of the virus:
- Its risks
- Transmission pathways
- And other factors.
While it will take time for all of the impacts of this ongoing crisis to become clear, one of the most important takeaways is a renewed focus on the importance of science literacy. A well-informed population, is a population that’s prepared to successfully navigate a challenge like the one posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
At Lab4U, we want to be a part of this change
- Helping students and teachers around the world become more scientifically literate. As always, Lab4U is concerned with increasing access to a quality science education for everyone, supporting science educators in promoting inquiry and experimentation that’s the foundation for meaningful learning.
- As part of this commitment, we’ve organized dozens of webinars and special opportunities for science educators, to bring innovative tools and methodologies for science distance learning closer to them
- If you’re a science educator and you’re interested in new ways of working remotely with your students, contact us! Our team of science experts would be happy to help. Our email is [email protected]
We also invite you to check out this list of communications strategies and tools to enhance scientific literacy from the US National Institute of Health (NIH).
Original Blog in Spanish: Educación Científica en tiempos de COVID19