BTI students assess the merits of distance learning


Sadie North

Biotech 1-2 student Hailey North conducts her lab, Culturing Microbes.

The Biotechnology Institute (BTI), a traditionally very hands-on curriculum, has lost some of its in-person charm with distance learning. Nevertheless, teachers and students continue to adapt and learn in this unique environment.

This year, students do not have a safe lab area or the assistance of their partners and teachers. Thus, BTI labs adapted for homes by using safer materials. 

In previous years, BTI students would expect the use of more hazardous substances and advanced tools. They would also be working in groups, taking notes in class, and performing all hands-on activities in class.

“It’s definitely different than it would be in real life because we would be working in groups, and we would have more access to materials, while everything at home has to be scaled back a little. But otherwise, I would say it’s pretty fun, and I really enjoy the class,” said Katarina Povinec. Povinec is a sophomore at Carlmont and currently taking Biotech 1-2 with teacher Tyler Kochel.

Kochel has taught Biotech (BT) since 2018; this year, he has a full load of BT classes. In Kochel’s experience, Edpuzzles and lab demo videos have been helping students keep up.

“We take you through all the steps so that you’re not just reading the steps, but you’re also seeing them. I think the lab videos and the Edpuzzles are something that I want to continue using even when we get back to in-person learning,” Kochel said.

BT classes like Biotech 1-2 and Biotech 3-4 earn students free college credit transferable to several institutions. To get the credit, you enroll in the course through Skyline College. Skyline has also partnered with Carlmont to supply this year’s take-home lab kits. 

According to Kochel, in the past, Skyline representatives would attend the classes and walk students through the registration steps. This year, everything must be done through Zoom and digitally. This difference in registration puts more ownership on students.

“I think it’s working well; they’re a big help. I hope students really take advantage of this jumpstart into college credits,” Kochel said, referring to the Skyline registration process.

Tyler Young is in chemistry for BTI as a part of his junior year. After taking Biotech 1-2 last year, Young feels that students can still get the full BTI experience despite distance learning.

“I wouldn’t change anything; it feels like a normal BTI class. My teacher, Mr. Engberg, is doing a really good job with distance learning and connecting with the kids in his class,” Young said.