Exploring the World, Virtually
by Chelsea Graeff, Kinder Humanities Teacher, Rocketship Los Suenos
Distance learning has been in full swing at Rocketship Public Schools for over a month. With only one day off, our schools went from classroom teaching, to distance learning. I have never been more proud of our network, my school campus, or our community, families and students. After nine years teaching at Rocketship Los Sueños, I have seen a lot, but I have never seen the level of persistence, grit, or adaptability distance learning has forced us to bring to our daily tasks. Our students have remained engaged and our teachers have worked hard to make the experience our families are having on line rigorous, consistent and joyful.
As a kindergarten humanities teacher, one of my assignments has been to deliver phonics and writing videos, while my partner teachers tackle math, language board, read aloud, and social emotional learning. It has been almost seamless. Our students send us pictures and videos of them participating in our lessons and of their completed assignments. As a teacher I have always felt fulfilled, but this format of teaching has brought fulfillment in a whole new way.
In addition to delivering content, I am also calling all of my students and speaking with them and their families on a weekly basis. While content and delivery have evolved over the last four weeks, this has remained constant. While parents express gratitude and students excitement, they also express a feeling of being overwhelmed. This is a difficult time for them, both because of all of the uncertainty as well as the new roles each of us are required to fill.
I found some amazing resources for parents to take their children on “virtual field trips” to places like the local zoo or even the Smithsonian. I posted these ideas with the vision of parents sitting in front of the computer, with their children on their laps, watching sea otters play in the water and scrolling to learn the names and habits of the animals they saw. What a great way to use the time at home!
As the days went by and I spoke to parents and students more, however, I realized for most parents my vision was not possible. Many parents were still working; some were concerned about housing, food security and other things that prevented them from using the virtual field trip resources. Not only did they require an adult to read through the article, plug in the correct URL and navigate the website, but my kindergarten students needed more information about the various topics for the “field trip” to be worthwhile.
This is when the idea of the Virtual Field Trips, led by Ms. Graeff came to me. Why couldn’t I put together a virtual field trip for the kids to participate in? I could add a read aloud, information about the topic and directions to participate in the actual field trip on their own. It took a little planning on my part, but the product was worth it. I was able to air my first virtual field trip going to the San Diego Zoo and watching the live cams of the animals. We added it to a unit we called the Exploration Unit on the Tk, K, and first grade pages.
After the first video went live, parents and students began posting right away. Some posted about how much they loved the trip. Others posted about what they saw on the live cams when they went themselves. It was a huge success. In fact, the Exploration Unit was such a success, we began posting the videos on the Rocketship Los Sueños page, so all of our students could enjoy them.
The next week I posted a Field Trip to Outer Space complete with a read aloud from a real astronaut and virtual tours of the international Space Station and the Solar System. Again, the response was fantastic! I had students of all ages enjoying both the video I shared, but also the resources I had posted for them to view on their own. I included worksheets, more information, crafts and the virtual tours. I even had one of my students decide she wanted to be an astronaut after she watched the video. I have now done field trips to the Ocean, to Antarctica and even a special edition for Earth Day. Each one has been fun to create and it has been thrilling to hear the students’ reactions.
While the content specific lessons we are engaging in are amazing, we have to remember our students and families are experiencing something very stressful that impacts them all in different ways. They need to have fun, laugh and enjoy themselves as they engage with us and the content we provide. I am glad I have found one more way to help them experience the world we live in, even if it is from in front of a computer screen.
Check out two of our recent field trips!
Chelsea is in her ninth year as a kindergarten teacher at Rocketship Los Suenos Academy. She loves teaching our youngest learners to read and write about the world around us. Currently, she is working on a Master’s degree with a focus in Special Education and enjoys living in Morgan Hill with her daughter, Patience, and her husband Tyler.
Published on May 1, 2020