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Jane Robb, idverde Bromley’s Environmental Education Manager at BEECHE, describes how the Education team adapted their normal outdoor learning sessions to online sessions during the national lockdown due to Covid-19.
As the nation descended into another lockdown on January 4th 2021 and schools were shut, we at BEECHE decided to take our programmes online.
Until now, all public sessions from BEECHE have been delivered face-to-face (with many new Covid-secure measures in place), even during Tier 3 restrictions in December 2020. However, this being the second time in lockdown, we were now able to plan in a way that enabled us to deliver sessions online for the first time.
Our audience was mainly school children aged from 7 and 12 years old, who are currently unable to be in school due to the lockdown.
We decided to plan our first sessions as a series of webinars, in the hope that we could provide a continuing learning opportunity for students, beginning with two sessions: ‘Rock around Bromley’ and ‘The Pond Habitat’.
Rock around Bromley was inspired by some of the wonderful geology that can be found around Bromley, preserved and conserved in various Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS). The first series focused on a denehole (a man-made chalk hole from medieval times) that can be found close to High Elms Country Park, where BEECHE are based. Using some interactive activities and a webinar format, we took students through the rock cycle, the formation of chalk, how to identify chalk and the history of deneholes.
The Pond Habitat was inspired by one of our most popular activities at our sites at High Elms, Brook Lane and Crystal Palace Park: pond dipping! We decided that although we can’t physically dip in the ponds at this time, we could bring some of the wonder of pond life to our students at home. We covered the animals and plants that live in the pond, food chains, life cycles and how to help conserve ponds and their habitats.
We also delivered a one-off free session to honour our partnership with the RSPB and help promote the Big Garden Birdwatch on the 30th January, where we went through how to register for the birdwatch, how to identify some common birds and how to help provide food and water for your local birdlife.
We had to think carefully about the risk assessment for the webinars, in particular, safeguarding for both participants and staff delivering from home. This was what informed the webinar format, so that staff could deliver from home with minimal insight into their homes as only their head and shoulders would be visible alongside a Powerpoint presentation. The participants’ videos and audio was turned off by the host, and only the chat function was available.
This of course presented challenges for how to make the sessions engaging and interactive. However, we also provided pre- and post-session worksheets and activities and included games that involve interaction via the chat (e.g. typing a word or number) during the webinars themselves.
We have received some wonderful feedback for the sessions so far, for example:
We have had great fun being creative with teaching in a new format. We plan to deliver more sessions throughout February, including for half term.