It’s been about six months since I’ve had any teaching engagements for which I need to prepare. The COVID pandemic wiped out all of my spring and summer opportunities to engage our local youth in the awe-inspiring environment that surrounds us all. And, it was to be quite a busy season! Scheduled as a presenter for two entire elementary school’s environmental day celebrations in April, I would have seen close to 1,000 kiddos. Then, I had been asked to be a PAID hike leader on local pollinators at a nearby nature preserve in the early summer. Summer usually brings speaking to gardening groups and other community service organizations about butterflies and plants, as well. Fall ushers in talks on tagging monarchs and citizen science, as well as visits to a local school to speak to first grade students about the monarch life cycle. It is the first year in six that I have been unable to make the trip to speak to these young students. I had plans. My teacher friends also had hopes and plans to be in person and continue our collaboration. But, all of our plans were dashed by the need to socially distance and stay healthy, aided by another round of virtual learning.
But, I find that I’m getting the itch to teach – some how, some way! This happens to me; I’ve experienced this “need”before. And usually, it was easily addressed. I would just reach out to a “formal” teacher and be able to speak to their students. Luckily, I have a great network of supportive teacher friends as well as a good reputation for delivering a passionate presentation. I have a variety of topics in my arsenal for fall. The pumpkin life cycle, monarch migration, planting bulbs, the forest, the prairie, and of course – exploring why the leaves change color! But, unfortunately, like getting ready for a trip that can’t happen, I am all packed up with no place to go!
A friend came over with her girls a couple of weeks ago to help us make apple cider using our apple press. It was a great time and maybe a bit of a relaxed learning experience. But, during the course of our afternoon, we talked about virtual presentations. We briefly discussed the effectiveness of presenting virtually and our comfort level in doing so. Now, mind you, neither one of us hold formal teaching positions, so we do not “have to” agree to making a virtual presentation. It is up to us to decide whether we want to be a virtual teacher or not.
I expressed concern that many organizations are turning to virtual field trips or digital environmental educational experiences. One of the cornerstones to environmental education (EE) is hands-on experiences. This is difficult with social distancing. Perhaps my husband said it best – “it’s an oxymoron” to have an environmental lesson digitally.
But, what are environmental educators to do? We cannot gather in groups large enough to get a project done or explore a topic in the field. So, families, teachers, classes, and students are left with a much lesser alternative – a digital event or a non-guided hike or something much less satisfying than being in the field with students.
After realizing I was getting “the itch” I considered my options. Truly, they are few with the exception of making a digital activity for those interested. So, later today, oxymoron or not, I will work on an interactive EE game for elementary students.
I don’t know how effective it will be, but at least I might scratch my itch!
Today is Slice of Life Tuesday. I’ve participated in this blogging forum since 2017! TwoWritingTeachers.org is the wonderful group that organizes this chance for writers to share their posts and ideas in a supportive atmosphere! Thank you!