A Virtual Visit

April 23, 2020

With spring field trips curtailed, the field station goes all out to provide K-12 students with resources

This time of year is busy at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Thousands of students visit the station to learn about biodiversity and ecosystems in person. This year is no less busy for Caitlin Potter and her staff even though they won’t be leading nature walks or science investigations in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“When we realized we wouldn’t be able to meet with students and their teachers at the reserve, we acted quickly to move as much of the field trip experience as we could online,” says Caitlin Potter, Cedar Creek’s education and community engagement coordinator. “We’re adding new activities and resources every week to support teachers and students in their transition to distance learning.”

Potter and her colleagues quickly created, aggregated and organized online resources including virtual tours, curated datasets and illustrated bingo cards. Visitors to the Cedar Creek site (z.umn.edu/cc_DigitalEd) can access material organized by grade level. They are also producing videos and other features that highlight more familiar terrain. Minnesota GreenCorps member Tillery Bailey launched a weekly video series with associated journal pages called Tillery’s Garden that explores plant life cycles, growth and development, and long-time naturalist Holle Despen is working on a video series called Tales of Cedar Creek that focuses on the creek itself as it flows through her personal backyard. These video series are paired with FlipGrid boards (flipgrid.com/tillerysgarden and flipgrid.com/talesofcedarcreek, respectively) that allow students, teachers and community members to share their reactions, responses and observations in their own yards and homes.

“Cedar Creek is helping kids and their parents take a closer look at their backyards, learn about plant growth, and contribute to scientific research from the comfort of their homes,” says Forest Isbell, associate director of the field station. – Stephanie Xenos

For an overview of offerings, go to cedarcreek.umn.edu/ed/resources.