With schools now delving into the world of remote learning as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a group of local organizations are figuring out a way to allow children to experience the wonder and excitement of the Outer Banks, virtually.
Virtual Field Trip Fridays is a free program where children can learn the history and ecology of the islands, through virtual tours and lessons with nine of the Outer Banks’ favorite local organizations.
Children will have the opportunity to go on a virtual underwater dive with the Coastal Studies Institute, go for a virtual fishing trip for plankton off of Jeanette’s Pier, visit with the river otters and opossums at the Aquarium, or see things like blacksmithing and weaving at Island Farm. They also have the chance to go on virtual hikes with park rangers to places like Jockey’s Ridge and Nags Head Woods.
According to Meredith Fish, environmental educator at Jeanette’s Pier, with everything shifting, these organizations, who all belong to a local network called Coastal Environmental Educators Network, wanted to figure out a way to collaborate with each other.
“This was just an idea that we had to include multiple organizations on the Outer Banks, so instead of trying to compete with each other to promote our individual virtual programs we wanted to kind of come together and offer a showcase of all that we have to offer on the Outer Banks,” says Fish.
The programs will held on three consecutive Fridays, starting Sept. 18, and will be free and available to anyone who wants to sign up – that goes for teachers, homeschool groups, or parents who don’t know what to do with their kids for one or two hours in the morning.
“We’re really geared towards anyone, all ages, but this will probably pique teachers’ interest because they usually going on actual field trips, so its a way to virtually travel and still get a kind of different experience in the classroom.”
For example, the Jeanette’s Pier program will provide a short introduction about the pier and a lesson on plankton – what they are and why they’re important. Participants will get a chance to catch plankton from pier virtually look at them through a microscope with their phones, Fish says.
“It won’t be the same thing as an in-person lesson, but we’re hoping that it will be close enough and still beneficial and fun and interactive for everybody,” says Fish.
With the future being unclear, this may just be the way kids do field trips for the near future. Fish and the Coastal Environmental Educators Network want to show teachers that although this world of virtual education is new to everyone, they can still work alongside teachers to give them fun options for their students.
Some of the organizations will offer free programs all year, but some will have to charge, says Fish. “But we wanted to have at least this one program that was completely free, that gave lots of different teachers and children access to what we’re doing.”