Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies Summer Highlights

By Seth Spencer, Education Program Coordinator, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

 When COVID-19 first became a serious issue in Alaska this past March,educators from the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies (CACS) in Homer had many of the same questions that families and businesses around the state probably had; can we still be open this summer, how do we keep kids, families, and staff healthy and safe; what does that even look like?

After lots of discussion, and communicating with other education organizations, state and federal health agencies, and families from the Homer community, CACS decided that it was important to continue to offer impactful educational opportunities in an outdoor environment.  Now, looking back at a fast-paced, fun-filled summer, even we were surprised at how successful, impactful, and energy-filled our day camps and overnight programs turned out to be.

Beach and plant ID guides, hand lenses, a jar for collecting objects, old smushed granola bars, extra socks for overtopped boots, interesting shells and rocks.  The backpack of a CACS naturalist educator is usually full of all sorts of wonderful tools and treasures! This summer, the backpacks had a few extra things in them — cloth face coverings, gloves, bottles of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, thermometers, health screening forms, and everything else needed to implement a detailed COVID-19 mitigation plan in an outdoor setting.

An immense amount of behind the scenes work from Coastal Studies staff and volunteers allowed us to create safe and fun-filled outdoor learning opportunities for all ages during this unusual summer.

And the result was: kids and teens hiking through the forest, jumping in puddles, exploring tidepools, eating berries, playing jump rope with kelp, building beach sculptures, making flower art, flying kites, kayaking, backpacking and more!

Young people were learning and laughing and being active outside, even as we all figured out how to navigate the constraints and concerns of a global pandemic.  They built friendships, connections to the natural places of Kachemak Bay in southcentral Alaska, and a curiosity for science and art.  Families were grateful that “all the things we love about day camp were possible” and that “our kids could have some semblance of fun, friendship and learning during some of the most difficult moments we are facing as adults.”

The impact of the Coastal Studies camps and field trips will reach well beyond this summer.  A day camp parent explained “because of how you handled mask wearing and hygiene my girls are well prepared for in person school.” A trip to the Peterson Bay Field Station was described by a middle school teacher as “such a gift to these kids that are entering high school in such uncertain times” and a parent called day camp a “critical spirit-lifter” after a spring full of so many disappointments. A participant in Teen Eco-Adventure Camp spoke to the larger importance of her experience in nature, “I used to hate just stepping outside, but now since I’ve seen more and done more, I’m in love with everything the outdoors brings and gives us.”  In these ways, our commitment to provide these opportunities in a safe way during summer 2020 will have long-lasting positive effects, both practical and profound.  We feel fortunate to be able to do this good and important work, and deeply appreciate the support of our community, our amazing naturalists, staff, and volunteers, and all of the families who helped to make this summer a success.  We look forward to seeing you out on the beaches or forest trails this fall!

 

The following categories of resources are listed below in order of their appearance:
Distance Education Tips for Educators

Educators Share Online Success

Curricula and Activities

Virtual Presentations and Field Trips

Online Games and Activities

Citizen Science

Distance Education Tips for Educators

7 Ways to Maintain Relationships During Your School Closure

Suddenly, you’re not in the same physical space as your students. We asked teachers to share strategies for maintaining relationships—both peer-to-peer and student-teacher—when everything’s gone remote. https://www.edutopia.org/article/7-ways-maintain-relationships-during-your-school-closure?utm_source=Edutopia+Newsletter&utm_campaign=6e02a883bf-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_040120_enews_7waysto&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f72e8cc8c4-6e02a883bf-79480019

How to Support Home Learning in Elementary Grades
A first and second grade teacher shares his home learning plan for his students and how he is engaging their families. https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-support-home-learning-early-elementary?utm_source=Edutopia+Newsletter&utm_campaign=daa103d42a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_COVID-19&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f72e8cc8c4-daa103d42a-79480019
Using Smartphones to Support Learning in Nature

Technology, used appropriately, can be a tool for thoughtful observation, enhancing students’ interactions with the natural world. https://www.edutopia.org/article/using-smartphones-support-learning-nature?utm_source=Edutopia+Newsletter&utm_campaign=6e02a883bf-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_040120_enews_7waysto&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f72e8cc8c4-6e02a883bf-79480019

Educators Share Online Success

Mushroom Spore Art with Rebecca Hammer, a 4th grade teacher at Pearl Creek Elementary in Fairbanks  https://youtu.be/_q8i47jC2F8

What in the world is that?! activity with Jim Gilbert first grade teacher at Harborview Elementary in Juneau

https://spark.adobe.com/video/AnfiXlNJ1WErg

Green Up! activity with Jim Gilbert first grade teacher at Harborview Elementary in Juneau

https://spark.adobe.com/video/wZ8h3pAicrVMN

Curricula and Activities

UAF Museum of the North (Fairbanks) Virtual Museum – Online Exhibits, Activities, Videos, Podcasts and other cool resources https://www.uaf.edu/museum/virtualmuseum/

Alaska Department of Fish & Game – At Home or at School: Teachers, parents and kids! Its time to learn about Alaska’s wildlife outside. Check out our standard aligned activities, videos, inquiries, scavenger hunts, coloring pages and more! New activities added weekly so check back often.  https://alaska.gov/go/8QHY

Alaska Wildlife Curriculum – The Alaska Wildlife Curriculum is designed for teachers of K-12 students who wish to open their classroom doors and windows to the natural world. Students learn ecological principles that lead to continued conservation of Alaska’s wildlife and wild lands.

Alaska Resource Education- https://www.akresource.org/homeactivities Here are activities for all ages that you can easily do at home. Use jelly beans to learn geology or mine for gold in a cookie, our lessons and activities are adaptable for all age groups. Check out our shopping list below and watch the how-to videos to do the lessons at home on your own time.

Smart Girls Rock! https://www.akresource.org/stemprogram

For those looking for more interaction and instruction we will be hosting live lessons over Zoom, dates and times for those lessons will be listed on our Facebook page. We are also allowing teachers or groups to set up virtual classroom visits and specialized lessons for them, click below to request a virtual classroom visit.

 

Alaska Botanical Garden https://www.alaskabg.org/teachers.html

Alaska Botanical Garden Art Lessons How about adding some art to your stay at home learning? The Alaska Botanical Garden has posted 2 art lessons and will add a new one every Wednesday! http://www.alaskabg.org/garden-art-weekly

 

Calypso Farms– They have some free downloadable activity sheets and Farm discovery kits at a moderate cost- https://calypsofarm.org/product-category/online-shop/farm-discovery-kits/ At-Home Farm Discovery Kits- Due to the COVID-19 emergency, we are unable to hold in-person Farm Discovery workshops for the foreseeable future. So, we’ve created NEW Farm Discovery Kits for at-home exploration & learning!! Each kit will be based around a different Farm Discovery topic and include:

• a Farm Discovery Book to start your journey
• a Craft to make as a family
• a Game to heighten your senses
• an Outdoor Activity to inspire new discoveries
• a Recipe to test your cooking skills
• a Challenge to learn something new

People and Place Curriculumhttps://calypsofarm.org/education-programs/people-place-curriculum/

Resource Library on new Renewable Energy Alaska Project website. REAP just launched a new website! One exciting feature is the Resource Library where you can search for white papers, videos, curriculum, and more. We’ve added over 30 resources that are related to K-12 energy education alone, and there are even more on other topics like policy and projects. Check it out, and we continue to add more resources, so please share anything with us that you think we’ve missed!

The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has been providing science outreach and educational resources for K-12 students for over 30 years. We would like to provide the following culturally appropriate science programs with downloadable lessons, digital lectures, and other interactive multimedia:
https://culturalconnections.gi.alaska.edu/ (This U.S. Department of Education Alaska Native Education grant-funded program engages students in the science of the aurora through the Inupiat lens. Lessons for grades 4-8. Also, includes a 25-minute movie about the aurora featuring indigenous Elders and culture bearers for allages to enjoy!)
 
and
http://uniteusforclimate.org/(This US Department of Education grant-funded program focuses on Arctic climate and weaves Indigenous and Western perspectives. Although lessons were developed for grades 7-12, lessons can be adapted for a broad age range.)

Virtual Presentations and Field Trips

Eagle River Nature Center– In April and May the Eagle River Visitor Center is offering a series of public programs via zoom and Facebook Live. Check out the schedule at https://www.ernc.org/programs

On-line Games and Activities

Water Sense Game by EPA– Move the water hero Flo through water pipes and answer water-efficiency questions while avoiding water-wasting monsters. https://www3.epa.gov/watersense/quiz/game_kids.html

Citizen Science

Report a Bat- Bat distribution, seasonal activity patterns, and the timing of reproduction are all poorly documented throughout much of Alaska. Reporting your bat observations will help improve our understanding of these important aspects of bat ecology. All observations are useful, but we ask you to pay special attention to the following:
https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=citizenscience.batsobservations

Acoustic Monitoring– You can help us monitor Southeast Alaska’s bat populations by driving an established survey route (transect) with a bat detector and an ultrasonic microphone mounted on the roof of your car. Driving transects have been used for many years to monitor bats in parts of the East and Midwest and have been important for detecting population declines in bat species affected by WNS. They cover a much larger area than a stationary detector, providing important information on species presence and distribution, as well as habitat use. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=citizenscience.batsacousticmonitoring
 Report a bat roost: If you know the location of a bat roost that is regularly used by more than one bat, please complete the online Bat Report Form.
Monitor a roost: Help document maternity colony size and timing of reproduction by volunteering to count bats as they emerge from their roost in the evening. Please visit the Alaska Center for Conservation Science for forms and more information. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=citizenscience.batsroostmonitoring

Wood Frog monitoring– The Alaska Wood Frog Monitoring Project is a volunteer based effort designed to assess the current status of Wood Frogs in Southcentral and Interior Alaska. The goal is to learn where they live, including their habitat types, and to establish a baseline for future monitoring. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=citizenscience.woodfrog
Loon and Grebe monitoring-The Alaska Loon and Grebe Watch Program is a volunteer-based effort designed to collect valuable information about nesting Loons and Grebes in Southcentral and Interior Alaska. This program helps biologists monitor population trends and identify hazards facing these unique waterbirds in your community. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=citizenscience.loonsgrebesgetinvolved
Project Budburst– Budburst is a national network of citizen scientists monitoring plants as the seasons change. https://budburst.org/get-started-budburst
Journey North– This website offers a variety of programs to track the movement and seasonal changes of birds, insects, plants, and more. https://journeynorth.org
GLOBE– The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program is an international science and education program that provides students and the public worldwide with the opportunity to participate in data collection and the scientific process, and contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the Earth system and global environment.  https://www.globe.gov/en