August 14, 2020 at 11:16 am #51086Elena GreenbergParticipant
I’m curious if anyone has any tips or suggestions. I am the program coordinator for an environmental science outreach program at the University of Arizona, called the Bio/Diversity Project, and we’re looking ahead to how we could most effectively structure this program to be online (if necessary) in the Fall semester. In the past, we have placed UA undergrad and grad students in local K-12 schools once a week to teach about the biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert. For this upcoming semester, we are considering structuring things differently. There are a couple of ideas below that I’d love feedback on!
1) We are considering limiting the range of K-12 grade levels that we work with in order to more effectively prepare the UA students to teach a specific audience. For example, just working with middle school students instead of working with all K-12 students. The idea behind this is that teaching remotely to kindergarten students could be very challenging. Do you all think that this is necessary to limit the grade levels involved? Or have you had success with distance-learning and younger grade levels?
2) If UA students are teaching online, we are considering having them create weekly short 5-10 minute videos of themselves demonstrating biodiversity-specific environmental science activities for the K-12 students to do at home. It may not be possible to find an existing environmental science video that focuses on the biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert and are age-appropriate for K-12 students – therefore it would take extra work for the UA students to create their own. Do you all think that this is an effective way of teaching/learning for both parties – the UA students and the K-12 students?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions! Thank you so much.
August 14, 2020 at 12:41 pm #51876LoriAnne BarnettKeymaster
Hi Elena! Thanks for posting your question here! Let’s see if we can generate some ideas – I know there are several other folx in the same kind of situation as you describe and I bet there are some good ideas afoot.
First, I think limiting the age levels that the UA students will be working with is pretty critical. If people are new to ee, new to teaching in formal or non-formal settings, and maybe new to teaching online/in zoom, then having such a wide audience range is going to add to the challenge of doing effective content delivery.
From what I’ve heard and seen, it seems like younger learners are doing OK with online learning as long as what is put together is short, engaging, and age-appropriate. Many students do need help from an adult to get themselves to the right spot online and in the right headspace, though, so that is a consideration.
I might also look for other age appropriate examples that already exist – or I should say have existed prior to COVID, which provided ideas and ways of teaching online. For example, this SciGirls series sponsored by PBS in Minnesota is a great resource. They have been around for years and Nature’s Notebook (my day job) was featured on it a few years ago. While that kind of thing isn’t designed to be a synchronous, facilitated class, you could pull from some of the tested structure of the content – video length, activity concepts, etc. I’d love to see some Arizona Educators create some lessons like that which could be shared across schools and programs toward building more inclusive online learning materials.
Sounds like you might be thinking in that direction with #2 above – short videos demonstrating things kids can do at home, and then maybe bring them back together to debrief what they did. I think if you are doing synchronous work that is critical to closing the learning cycle.
I think we really, really need to let go of the idea of returning to the way things were – in formal education or otherwise. Now is a great time to rethink how things could be and be better! Trying to fit online learning into the same, sometimes ineffective, pedagogy is not going to be well received, won’t result in anyone learning anything, and is probably NOT the way to think about making new resources.
I’d love to hear other ideas from everyone and, Elena, we’d be glad to help support your students as they create content for younger learners too. Feel free to have them post questions and ideas here.
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