Today I started working on a project for a local elementary school. Due to the pandemic, environmental day festivities – usually held on or around Earth day in April – are being planned as virtual festivities. My choice, as a presenter, was to do a live “Zoom” presentation on April 1st or to make a video that the teachers could present to their classes that same day at their convenience.
Given that I’m an informal environmental educator, used to working in the field and “temporary” settings with students at schools or in community spaces such as gardens, libraries, forests, or prairies, preparing something for a live zoom presentation did not thrill me. I elected to produce a video presentation of my topic.
After a few back and forth emails with the teacher that coordinates the environmental day festivities at this elementary school, and a consultation with a teacher with whom I am friends with at the school, we settled on the topic of phenology. It is a presentation for the first grade classrooms (I believe there are seven sections of them) so I will save the higher end vocabulary until later in the presentation, instead calling it – “Take a Walk with Me and Look for Signs of Spring.”
Phenology, if you are unfamiliar, is the study of the timing of cyclic biological events, otherwise known as the observation of seasonal change. Brittanica.com states that phenology is “the study of phenomena or happenings. It is applied to the recording and study of the dates of recurrent natural events (such as the flowering of a plant or the first or last appearance of a migrant bird) in relation to seasonal climatic changes. Phenology thus combines ecology with meteorology.”
Since the students of my assigned grade level are are very young, I wanted a topic that they could relate to but still be challenged enough to learn something new (part of it will be new words). Usually, I present in person to these classrooms in the fall as an invited guest and discuss the monarch life cycle and migration. It is my area of specialty since I’ve been involved in monarch conservation since the turn of the century! Wow, that makes me seem old – but, twenty plus years is a long time.
In any case, I’m excited about working on something for students again. It felt so good to be planning my lesson, playing with my phone to start the video production, and even traipsing outside into my yard to capture our bare limbed apple trees, melting snow, and blue skies. I want to inspire them to stop, look, and listen for the signs of seasonal change even before the more noticeable changes are upon us.
It’ll take a little practice for me to get used to talking on camera but I’ll have plenty of time over the next month. I’m actually enjoying it so far!
It’s a far cry from the 1500 students I was scheduled to see last spring, but it’s okay. It just feels great to be back in the saddle again getting a lesson ready for students!