My First Experience with Virtual Teaching
October 16, 2020
Remote Teaching at Highland Elementary School
For the past two years, I have been the senior educator from ACES delivering our curriculum to schools in the Re-2 school district, an opportunity that has allowed ACES to expand our educational programs downvalley. This work, which is part of the Garfield County Outdoors initiative, has been made possible through a three-year grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). Each semester, I work in a new elementary school. The transition has always brought with it a series of changes I’ve had to adjust to, but this year marks the biggest change–virtual live teaching with Highland Elementary School students.
Instead of walking into Highland Elementary, setting up my materials in a classroom and giving each student the option of a handshake, high five or hug as they enter, I have set up an “outdoor classroom” at our ACES sites (temperatures permitting) with a desk, chair, laptop, and visual aids. I greet the students not in person, but with a big “hello” and a “good morning” song we sing to start our time together. The librarian at Highland Elementary, Julie, helps students find their seats at the carpet, and I rely on her to pull up videos, call on students, pass out materials and navigate any technological difficulties that might come our way.
Bringing the Ranch to the Classroom
Lessons are 45 minutes long, and are focused on environmental or agricultural topics. Students in grades K-2 are learning about the habitats that make up this valley, from Aspen to Rifle, and the varied animals that live in or visit these spaces. Kindergarten and second grade students have been virtually transported to Rock Bottom Ranch, where they can listen to the honey bees buzzing in the flower-filled children’s garden, watch the laying hens peck and scratch in their pasture, see the Katahdin sheep graze through a grassy field and observe the Broad Breasted Bronze Turkeys dust bathe in the morning sun. First graders have learned about local animals like the bees in the garden and the Great Horned Owl at Hallam Lake. They have observed and learned about the animals’ body parts that help them survive and perform their day-to-day activities, and have watched a video of the owl swallowing a rat whole.
Highland Elementary staff and I continue to explore ways of making ACES education–traditionally a hands-on, in person, full sensory experience–feel as real as possible during these unusual and uncertain times. Teaching kids from afar through a screen, while not as desirable for me (a person who loves to connect face-to-face), is something I feel proud of, as it allows me the opportunity to connect with kids and explore our shared valley together, while staying safely apart.
Katrina (Kitty) Winograd
Senior Educator at Re-2 and Ag Ed Specialist