Back in the Saddle Again

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.”

Milkweed erupting in my garden during May. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2019.

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.”

A fern before it unfurls. Wisconsin Forestland. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2020.

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.

Monarch on Butterfly Bush. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015

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.

Winter gives way to spring with melting snow and blue skies. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2021.

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!

8 thoughts

  1. Carol, this sounds like a wonderful project! I know we’d rather present “live and in person,” but this year things like that just aren’t to be. I’m excited to read that you’re going into video creation–I think that’s going to be a really cool addition to your toolbox! I’ve made many videos for school (computer science, fractions, and technology tools for the most part) and a few for our local Land Trust as well. I would love to see your finished product; maybe that can be a post when it’s done.

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    1. Thank for your support, Tim. I’m excited to see how it turns out! I find it’s always good to learn something new and keep things fresh, not only for the students but for myself as well! I’ll think about sharing it as a post when done. I appreciate the interest, though!

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  2. Thanks for sharing! I love that your lesson planning took you outside. It’ll be cool for the students to see that and imagine their own yards too.

    It’s also interesting that you said the video part will take some practice and that you didn’t want to Zoom with the classes. I’d love to hear more about that.

    Take care and have fun with the planning.

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    1. Thanks! Making the video has been a great excuse to get outside on these 50 degree days in March, in Wisconsin! We have to take it when we can! I’ll probably post more on the process when I get further into the project. I hope you stop back! Thanks, again!

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  3. Your passion for this project is clear, and the included photos are stunning. I wanted to join you on your walk to the apple trees so I too could see the melting snow and blues skies. This is one of my favorite times of year and you captured it beautifully and scientifically. I learned the meaning of phenology, and I know each and every Zoom student will learn too. Thank you for taking me to your orchard and allowing me to reflect on the hope spring brings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am basing as much as I can on the change in the apple trees – kind of like the book The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons (1984)….. although there’s more to the change from winter to spring than just the change in trees. I appreciate your interest and supportive comments!

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  4. Signs of spring, YES! One of the favorite activities in the Levin household each year. And to know that there is a name for it. My nerdy little heart just pitter-pattered and skipped a beat. Thanks for this slice!

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