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Homeschooling in the time of corona

With schools shuttered worldwide, Davidson Institute offers distance-learning solutions



Date: March 16, 2020
Weizmann homepage

Schools across the globe have closed due to the global spread of the novel coronavirus, and teachers are turning to remote learning to keep their students on track. If the online world wasn’t already a central fixture of our lives, now the Internet has become a primary portal to the outside world for parents and kids cooped up at home—and school lessons and assignments in Israel have shifted almost exclusively to the online space.

The Davidson Institute of Science Education at the Weizmann Institute, which operates dozens of curricular and extracurricular programs, is on the front lines of this effort with its robust Davidson website site. Last week, it launched a new website called Stuck at Home?, which offers a suite of digital science activities for the entire family.

Stuck at Home ? includes videos, articles, puzzles, science experiments that can be conducted at home, and other innovative science and math activities. The Davidson Institute has shared the link to this content it via social networks, groups within the Ministry of Education, various WhatsApp groups, and more. The response has been overwhelming: On the first day of the school closings (March 13), the Davidson Institute website was flooded with users—about 250,000. Before the crisis, the site received about 20,000 visits per day. While most surfers are accessing the site from Israel, several thousand are from other countries as well, primarily the US. While the Stuck at Home site is in Hebrew and Arabic, efforts are underway to translate it into English and Spanish, to meet demand worldwide.

“For as long as this pandemic continues, the Davidson Institute plans to continuously update and upload new material every day, and our staff is working hard in order to continue offering the best science engagement available to all,” says Davidson Institute CEO Dr. Liat Ben-David.

Science on demand

The site offers activities related to a diverse range of science-related topics including the nervous system, plant science, astronomy, vitamins, how fish breathe, the anatomy of the brain, and how to make your own lava lamp. It's also a portal to other Davidson content, such as its free and widely popular Science VOD page, which includes an extensive library of videos on demand, divided into the categories of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and science at home.

Meanwhile, Davidson also launched a page with a suite of articles on COVID-19, as well as posts related to virology and epidemiology in general. The staff is also maintaining a daily report, steadily growing in popularity, tracking the spread of the virus.

A series of digital science courses are on offer as well, though require subscriptions, including neuroscience, computational physics, earth science, and more, as well as courses specifically geared for teachers and teacher training.

Many of the linked article on the Davidson website lead visitors to online resources in English, including news sites (such as CNN, BBC, etc.) and scientific papers. Such links offer Israeli students an opportunity to use and improve their English reading skills, expose them to the international and academic language of science, and provide a window into how other parts of the world are coping with the challenges of the current situation.