By Shawna Metcalf, CSTA President
Congratulations!! You made it to summer vacation…one more deserved and needed than any other. The last few months have been challenging to say the least. When I was first given the go ahead to work from home, I was ecstatic. I won’t lie and say there were no parts of this temporary reality that I absolutely loved and wish I could continue; however, I am definitely ready for summer vacation. The problem is that while I am ready for summer vacation and all of the activities that would normally entail, the world and our reality is not quite there yet.
As disappointing as that is for me, I know it is even harder for our students and children. Their summer vacation is not really going to be much different, except now they won’t have school as a distractor from being stuck at home. For parents, that means needing to find ways to keep kids from going stir-crazy over summer vacation while still being stuck at home.
My original plan for my 8 year old step-daughter was science camp at the California Science Center. We signed her up the day registration opened and she spent months with her fingers crossed hoping the pandemic would be over and she could still go. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen; however, this situation has brought to light the amazing resources our informal partners have been and continue to be. She will now attend two full weeks of virtual science camp that requires minimal to no parental support. While teachers spend countless hours trying to navigate the virtual world and make their teaching accessible to their students, our informal partners have worked tirelessly to do the same. The resources being created by our informal partners in education as a result of the pandemic will far outlast the pandemic itself.
As a classroom teacher, I had no idea the wealth of resources available to me through our informal partners like science centers, zoos, aquariums, etc. These places are so much more than field trips. They are science educators who are excited about providing students with dynamic learning experiences rooted in what they love. Many of the education programs at these institutions have truly embraced the instructional shifts of CA NGSS and are amazing resources for classroom teachers wanting and needing to provide students with high-quality, phenomenon-based learning opportunities. They were making this a reality before the pandemic and have spent the last few months discovering how to make their programs more accessible in the virtual world.
Whether you have a little one at home you need to keep stimulated and engaged over summer, or looking for online resources in the event of remote learning next school year, or just want additional resources that will enhance your teaching, I highly encourage you to look into the informal education organizations near you to see what they have to offer. While I know personally the dedication of the educators at the California Science Center, the Exploratorium, and the San Diego Zoo, I also know there are so many more out there for us all to experience and partner with.
This summer, while you decompress from the end of the school year we never imagined and plan for the unknown of the next, I strongly encourage you to reach out to our informal education partners to find out just what they have to offer. I am positive you won’t be disappointed.