By Dru Marion
Like most of us, SEI’s Climate Corps Education Outside (CCEO) Fellows have had a strange year. In March, school closures sent this group of outdoor educators out of their Bay Area school gardens and into their living rooms, behind computer screens. Since then, the CCEO program has adapted to the distance learning structures at all of our partner elementary schools, repeatedly returning to a core question: how can we continue to offer students opportunities to engage with science, connect to nature, and interact in hands-on ways with the world around them?
This fall, CCEO Fellows dove headfirst back into the world of distance learning at their schools in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Alameda counties. They are each delivering a full calendar of live classes over Zoom and other platforms to all students at their elementary schools. Fellows have also worked to build a robust library of video lessons that students can watch and learn along with at their own pace. Who could have predicted that filming, starring in, and editing videos would become a critical tool in the toolbox of an environmental educator in 2020?
Fellows apply pedagogical techniques they have learned in CCEO trainings in their videos and keep equity and access at the forefront of their choices around materials and activities. They have devised lessons that allow students to become scientists within their own homes and communities - venturing into their refrigerators to find a piece of fruit, or investigating worms on the sidewalk. After they send out videos, Fellows typically debrief the activity with their students during live virtual class sessions the following week.
In one video lesson, Fellow Lise Ramalay digs deep into the concept of decomposition as part of CCEO’s Soil and Decomposition Unit for 2nd-3rd grade. Using visual cues on screen, she breaks down the word in order to help students arrive at a definition on their own. She then guides students in setting up their own decomposition experiment using easy-to-find materials:
In the months ahead, the need for outdoor learning will be more important than ever as it offers the safest way for students to attend school and stay healthy. CCEO program staff, Fellows, and certainly our students eagerly await the day we can return to those spaces to learn together. In the meantime, we applaud the passion, creativity, and resilience of CCEO Fellows for bringing garden class to life, even through the screen.
If you are a teacher interested in accessing our video library of 26 virtual garden lessons for grades K-5, please click here and scroll down to find the “Request Access to Education Outside Video Library” form.
The SEI Team
Environmental education and workforce development experts share stories from the field