students studying seaweed
Students wear gloves and masks while analyzing seaweed at the marine science lab.

Books, binders and ballpoint pens aren’t the only classroom essentials these days. At the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, a small number of courses with clinicals or labs are being held in-person which require students, faculty and staff to strap on masks and take on a renewed approach to traditional learning. Instruction requires significant modifications that include social distance requirements and work space configurations which adhere to strict health and safety protocols.

student disinfecting switch
Sadie Nguyen, CARES student worker, disinfects light switches and other high-contact surfaces in the geology lab.

UH Hilo Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes Educational Specialist Darcy Bevens set up a photo gallery online to showcase how procedures have drastically changed at the Hawaiʻi Island campus this semester. “I’m very impressed with how everyone is adapting—it’s inspiring! Students enrolled in the science labs are delighted to have physical access. In years past, many students took these labs for granted, but now, with so much done remotely, they have a new appreciation for the privilege of being allowed to enter a lab and look through a microscope. The faculty and lecturers who teach these labs are also grateful for the opportunity; you just can’t teach chemistry effectively, unless students handle the test tubes,” explained Bevens.

Most courses at UH Hilo are remote, but an exception was made for the laboratory component of biology, chemistry, geology, marine science and nursing classes. Each lab classroom is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to each session and every other workstation must remain vacant to meet physical distance requirements.

According to Bevens, the vibe on campus so far this semester has been positive. She works remotely most days but looks forward to weekly visits on-campus. “It’s such a pleasure to see students and colleagues enjoying everything, whether it’s handling lava rock specimens in a lab or having lunch outside on a large picnic table. I think that post-pandemic, everyone will be more grateful than ever for the opportunity to have in-person labs and classes and other activities at UH,” she said.

To view more photos, go to UH Hilo.

students in line
Biology students line up behind marked tape and listen to safety instructions before entering the lab.