From in-person to on-screen, flexibility is key to virtual learning

From in-person to on-screen, flexibility is key to virtual learning

Mackensie duPont Crowley, communications specialist

What does a virtual science lesson from Save The Bay look like? In recent years, the Lincoln School has invited Save The Bay to provide in-person education to their K-5 students. This summer, our staff worked to get teachers up and running with our virtual programming right from the beginning of the school year. In a recent lesson, Captain Eric was teaching live from a salt marsh, while Captain Jen managed the Zoom call remotely. Acting as a liaison between the classroom and the educator, Captain Jen was able to take questions from the students, and feed them directly to Captain Eric in the field, as he showed them the lively ecosystem of the salt marsh this season. 

Captain Chris leads a lesson on dune grass planting for a NOAA B-WET program.

During a normal school year, our Explore The Bay program provides a wide range of environmental and marine science topics, allowing students to take part in hands-on programming at our Bay Center in Providence, our Exploration Center & Aquarium in Newport, aboard our boats on the waters of Narragansett Bay, along the shoreline, or directly in the classroom. In addition to delivering a menu of virtual programs to replace in-person summer BayCamps, Save The Bay’s education team spent the summer researching best practices and evaluating technological challenges in order to offer programs to schools throughout the watershed over Zoom. The Explore The Bay staff worked to establish standards-based environmental science, marine biology, and watershed education curriculum that could be easily translated to support virtual learning, with the option to customize based on the schools needs. 

So, when Governor Raimondo gave the entire state, with the exception of Central Falls and Providence districts, a “green light” to a full in-person school reopening on September 14, with the goal that all students who wanted to return in-person would be back in their classrooms by October 13, Save The Bay educators were prepared.

Educator Jeff-shark-jaw-Exploration-Center
Educator Jeff shows the jaw of a shark from the Exploration Center & Aquarium

“The schools are doing great right off the bat, especially after being presented with so many unknowns, from when students would be returning, to making sure everyone has access to the proper technology,” said Grainne Conley, Save The Bay’s education program manager. “I am constantly amazed by how well our teachers have responded to the current situation. They are balancing a whole new set of challenges and still keeping their students at the forefront. As a result of their energy, and their excitement to work with community partners, the students are engaged and look forward to our programming.”

The adaptability of our funders to the changing landscape has made a world of difference, as well. While Save The Bay was originally awarded some grants with the premise that funds would be used to support classroom and field experiences, we have been able to work with our private funders to transform how that money would be used in our virtual programs, often in underserved communities. NOAA has also given the go-ahead to resume virtually under the Bay Watershed Education and Training grant, which will benefit students at Chariho Regional High School and East Providence Career & Technical Center. And, 11th Hour Racing has come onboard to support our second season of Breakfast by The Bay, a weekly segment where our educators go live on YouTube to teach a lesson that can be accessed by anyone.

Jess shows a dogfish shark live on YouTube during a segment of Breakfast by The Bay.

Save The Bay continues to adjust to the virtual world in an effort to provide the best programming to our partner schools, and has been receiving daily requests from schools and other groups as students transition back to the classroom. Our educators have developed innovative ways to deliver standards-based curriculum while taking students to explore the coast, salt marshes, inland watershed habitats, our Exploration Center & Aquarium, and the Bay aboard our vessels – in real-time. We know this to be true: the more students know about our marvelous watershed, the better stewards for Narragansett Bay they become. In-person, or through a screen, our commitment to impacting students remains the same.