By: Hazel England – Director of Education and Outreach, Land Steward
& Sandra LaVigne – Director of Water Quality Programs
While the continuing trials of teaching during the pandemic are enough to dent even the most enthusiastic educators, the GSWA staff is finding innovative ways to teach in this new normal. Refining our processes along the way has allowed us to remain meaningfully connected as we teach our water quality programming to students, and with schools and education partners. In addition, we’ve been busy writing grants for funding so we may continue pivoting in this new reality of teaching and learning. Additional funding will allow us to acquire technological equipment such as cameras, tripods, and tablets for streaming to classrooms, and to obtain the necessary training to use this new technology effectively and efficiently.
Since we typically teach face-to-face and hands-on, it’s been a huge adjustment for us as you might imagine! But we are ready to move forward with our education programs into the new year.
Many of our partner schools, especially those that are more urban, remain fully remote where all students are home learning via online platforms. Some schools are in blended/hybrid sessions where a portion of the students are in-person with their teacher, and the rest join online. Other schools are fully in-person. Though this presents challenges, we are adapting our previously in-person programs to these new modes.
Throughout the fall, we dropped into classrooms online, teaching in shorter bursts and sharing content. In December, our staff began collaborating on storyboards and scripts to create short films for several of our programs such as What is a rain garden? What is a watershed? And the true water cycle programs we offer. Students can view them prior to or after our “visits.” These short films will be crisp and concise to keep students engaged and asking questions. Their purpose is to increase students’ understanding and retention of our lessons, serving as building blocks of knowledge that can be compiled and watched in a variety of ways depending on the teacher’s current curriculum. Thanks to recent grant funding, we will begin shooting these scripts in a couple weeks with the professional videographer who created our amazing Gala videos.
We are also busy researching and purchasing quality technology so we may offer live from the stream and other programming to stream interactively into classes, allowing students to connect with nature while enduring remote learning conditions. While our ultimate goal is always to be face-to-face with the students we teach, the content we are creating will allow us to continue offering more flexible and novel ways for students to engage with our programs.