A lot has changed since March, and while OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors may be shifting its “hands-on” approach to environmental education to a virtual format, the program remains committed to providing science learning and enrichment to students across Orange County, even if that means they have to do it online.
“We are offering the same programs, in the same format students, families and educators are used to — only virtually,” Stephanie Smith, operations manager for Inside the Outdoors, said in a recent video posted on the ITO YouTube page.
Since the pandemic started, Smith says Inside the Outdoors has been looking for creative ways to nurture the natural curiosity of students and keep their popular programs alive.
For the 2020-21 school year, on-site field trips have been replaced with a variety of virtual Field Trips and Traveling Scientist programs. While keeping learning continuity and distance learning goals in mind, Smith says all programs are designed by Orange County Department of Education STEM content experts and support current Next Generation Science Standards.
Every live stream virtual program will:
Serve as a virtual classroom takeover where the teacher benefits as a participant.
Match with various virtual platforms – Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, etc. – for a comfortable online experience.
Bring science and history to life and inspire students with a combination of props, lab demonstrations, field explorations, animal ambassadors, and/or historic artifacts.
Include two Inside the Outdoors staff members to facilitate and encourage student engagement with questions and activities, as well as work to minimize distracting interruptions.
Extend the lessons through resources like pre- and post-activities and family engagement components.
But what is the difference between a virtual field trip and virtual traveling scientist? Here is a brief breakdown.
Virtual Field Trips
Inside the Outdoors Program Naturalists bring the outside indoors by taking students on a live-streamed science and nature exploration at a local park or wilderness area in one of the most bio-diverse areas of the world — Orange County. Virtual field trips are designed for students in grades TK-12, and locations include the OC Great Park, Upper Newport Bay, Shipley Nature Center, Irvine Regional Park and more.
Virtual Traveling Scientists
Inside the Outdoors Traveling Scientists engage students virtually in content focused, minds-on science activities that can be experienced in a classroom or distance-learning setting. The team of scientists works with educators to offer programs to fit various virtual learning settings.