How to create memorable experiences in a virtual classroom
As most of us are becoming experts in virtual learning, many of the usual field trips that we give our students are not available. As teachers, I know that just teaching the normal amount of content seems daunting, so adding after school clubs and field trips to this mix seems like a pipe dream. We as informal educators are also frustrated by the lack of contact with your students and are trying to create amazing virtual content that can supplement your digital instruction.
So, I wanted to highlight two options for teachers as they are planning lessons. First, look in your area for a science or nature center and request outreach, either virtually or team teaching with you. Take the field trip to the wastewater treatment plant with your students. Go to a local nature center and show off the animals. Get a local scientist to explain their profession to your students. If you ask a facility to visit virtually, make sure that your school pays for this program, even at a reduced rate. Most facilities get up to half of their revenue from field trips! One great website of informal spaces is the field trip directory. Another way to find and support local science and nature centers is to use Google Maps to highlight your city’s partners.
Injecting science into your school day doesn’t have to be something special, but it can be! Many schools are starting to include a passion time or allowing students to participate in clubs during the school day to allow for all students to pursue their interests. Make sure science is included! Over the summer, my district proposed clubs through community members and informal educators all over the area. Every interest seemed to be covered except science. I pointed out the error and it was quickly corrected, but we have to advocate for more science! NCCAP, the NC Center for Afterschool Programs, is a great place to start when looking for partners to host clubs either during the school day or after school. Many times after school programs are desperate for science professionals to be included. Connecting the informal educators that can’t come into a school building with students that can’t come to a facility allows formal educators to inspire students and throw a lifeline to the science partners in their communities.
Finally, many competitions, clubs and experiences that normally would involve great time and expense are now affordable and virtual because of COVID-19. The North Carolina Science Festival, NISE network, the North Carolina Science Olympiad and FIRST NC robotics are just a few experiences that are now reduced and moved online because of the pandemic. I have linked all those for easy access.
You can do this! Bringing shared science experiences to your classroom and allowing students to explore their passions is what informal educators want to do with you in your classrooms. As informal educators, we want to partner with you and your students to nurture that excitement! Good luck the rest of the semester.
Until next time,