Like educators all around the world, Emily Webb has recently developed numerous virtual lessons to keep her students engaged and learning while they are at home. Co-director and lead teacher at Lexington Friends Preschool, Emily recently incorporated environmental education into her distance learning curriculum with a unit about seed dispersal.
“I asked the children to make a seed dispersal apparatus to see how far they could make a single dandelion seed travel,” she said. And the ideas her students showed her were outstanding. With his parents’ permission, Emily shared with us a video of kindergarten student George Bell and his “throw blow” machine. “This family helped incorporate all aspects of STEM learning for their child,” Emily said. “The new, sudden role of homeschooling their child, a new skill for so many parents, was pulled off really well!”
Other lessons in the EE unit included counting the number of seeds on the head of a dandelion, watching a couple of short videos on different ways seeds travel, and a comprehension activity using Eric Carle's book "A Tiny Seed.”
“I love seeing pictures of the children's work at home,” Emily says. “Several of them will send videos or post videos of themselves doing the activities in their yards, in their pajamas, with their siblings. They seem relaxed and happy, and I am encouraged knowing these activities give them meaningful and creative ways to spend time with their families.”
Because for students in preschool and kindergarten so much of the learning is experiential, Emily said, “a big part of the experience is learning with their peers,” which has been brought to a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “So I've suggested parents use virtual meeting platforms so the kids can do the activities together.”
Emily feels that her kindergarten students participating in the daily online videos are “enjoying the content, sparking discussion at home, and extending the activities.” Even knowing this, though, she does miss “the energy and spirit the children bring to the lessons” while in school together. “When I’m doing a lesson to an empty room or computer screen, I can imagine what the kids at home are saying/how they are reacting,” she said. “Usually their questions and enthusiasm are what drives the curriculum, so it definitely feels like a big piece of the puzzle is missing right now!”
Though Emily and her fellow teachers in Kentucky and around the globe are eager to return to the classroom, all of them are inspiring us and others in their innovative, adaptable lesson plans and virtual activities. They remain our heroes, during this time and for evermore.
By Leigh Cocanougher
KAEE is one of the country’s oldest associations supporting environmental education. We comprise people from all walks of life, coming together to support EE.