Virtual field explorations – Using the backyard as a science classroom

As the long-term impact of the pandemic on teaching and learning for K12 students and teachers in the Western UP became apparent, the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI) sprang into action. LSSI staff quickly began brainstorming how best to assist teachers with preparing online lessons that would still have an outdoor experiential component grounded in place-based learning.

Outdoor field explorations are a meaningful way to engage learners in observing the natural phenomena in their own backyard. To support teachers and families in maintaining this vital learning experience during these uncertain times LSSI developed a series of field explorations that will engage learners through recorded videos and a variety of outdoor activities.

In one month’s time, LSSI applied for and received a $10,000 grant from the Michigan Space Consortium to design and disseminate online learning modules.

These virtual place-based explorations will focus on local content including bird migration, frog monitoring, planting gardens, and local geology. Click here to access field explorations.

The project engages learners through simple observations of natural phenomena and environmental issues in one’s own backyard. The recorded videos and suggested outdoor activities allow for connections to place at a time when travel, access, and group gatherings are impeded by social distancing and stay-at-home orders, projected to continue into the next school year. This project aims to create experiences that are specific to the Western U.P. Further, the explorations provide place specific, earth systems science content strategically crafted by a well-rounded team of curriculum development experts, local community content experts, teachers, and parents in order to develop a quality product that directly addresses the rapidly evolving needs of teachers and learners.

The mission of the LSSI is to integrate place-based education (PBE) into the curriculum. PBE utilizes the local community as one of the primary resources for learning about where you live and engaging students and teachers in solving community problems. Lake Superior stewardship projects by schools and community partners. Place-based stewardship learning features exploration of the local community and natural surrounding through hands-on experiences that involve discovery, inquiry and problem-solving, all of which develop students’ skills and abilities.

Lessons will be posted online here for schools from Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Gogebic, and Ontonagon Counties, and students from two tribal communities: Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Lac Vieux Desert Band of Chippewa, and also on the Copper Country ISD website.

The Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative has also compiled Teaching & Learning Resources for Students, Teachers and Community linked here.

This project is a joint effort of the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, the Western Upper Peninsula Region 16 of the MiSTEM Network, and the Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach. Funding for this project is provided by the MiSTEM Network Regional Funds, NOAA B-Wet, and the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.


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