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!
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/
Technology, used appropriately, can be a tool for thoughtful observation, enhancing students’ interactions with the natural world. https://www.edutopia.
Educators Share Online Success
Mushroom Spore Art with Rebecca Hammer, a 4th grade teacher at Pearl Creek Elementary in Fairbanks https://youtu.be/_
What in the world is that?! activity with Jim Gilbert first grade teacher at Harborview Elementary in Juneau
Green Up! activity with Jim Gilbert first grade teacher at Harborview Elementary in Juneau
Curricula and Activities
Nature Adventure Journal Activity offered by James Gilbert A journal lesson created in google slides and voiced over in Seesaw. Kids are able to submit photos of their exploration, their journal sketches and notes, and record their own voiceover narrative about what they learned.
Nature Adventure Mushroom Activity offered by James Gilbert I used slides created in Google slides and added voiceover with the classroom platform called Seesaw. Kids followed the lesson, then went out on their own great mushroom adventures.
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.
Friends of Creamer’s Field provides a venue for community involvement through education programs, signature events and guided interpretive nature walks. Our programs focus on the natural ecology of the refuge and the history of Creamer’s Dairy in Interior Alaska. https://friendsofcreamersfield.org/programs-events/
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/
• 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!
Virtual Presentations and Field Trips
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/
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/