Lessons from COVID: Making Time for Nature and Self-Contemplation

The world is a noisy place. Everyone is talking and few are listening. We are becoming increasingly active as the world reopens. As we close out this school year and look to the future, we all have to be cognizant of COVID’s lasting effects on our learning communities. As I look to the future, I want to incorporate two lessons I’ve learned. I plan to be intentional in making space for quiet and including resources that connect students to nature. My time in quarantine has showed me the benefits of intentional stillness and has given me a renewed desire to connect with nature.

Recently I read Rocket Learns to Read to a class. At the end of the lesson I played a live stream of puppies, and the students were captivated. The calming effect of watching frolicking puppies was undeniable; it supported the lesson and addressed my students’ social and emotional needs. Everyone can use a puppy break. There are many opportunities to incorporate nature and stillness into our lessons, and many can be recommended as summer activities for your learning communities.

Zoo Atlanta’s webpage provides extensive information about the zoo’s inhabitants, including animal care, personalities, and legends. Its scientists lead research on the animals in their care as well as other animals in the wild. They also provide research and project guidelines for K-12 students. The zoo is the home of the famous Panda Cam. Whether you are modeling journaling or simply want to keep up on the antics of Ya Lun and Xi Lun, the playful four-year-old panda stars of the daily cam, Zoo Atlanta is a great resource to bring nature into your school.

My time in South Africa’s Kroger National Park provided me with a unique perspective of the world and its vast array of wildlife. I was afforded the opportunity to watch for the Big Five animals of Africa: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalo. Seeing majestic giraffes galloping across the plains and elephants gently nurturing their young are sights I will never forget. Lesson units on animals, poetry, geography, and many other subjects easily lend themselves to incorporating live webcams of African wildlife into lesson plans.

I plan to show my students life beyond their current setting. All of us are global citizens, interconnected in ways far more immediate and pervasive than previously thought. I want my students to embrace their place in the world and learn to become enthusiastic seekers of information and experiences.

I organized a virtual tour of the Joides Resolution, a research vessel that drills into the ocean floor to collect and study core samples, as a culminating activity for a science collaboration. Students were able to talk to the on-board scientists, ask questions, and tour the vessel. This tour incorporated AASL Standards and showed students the behind-the-curtain view of scientific research. This interaction enhanced the lesson and expanded the students’ list of science career options. This is just one of several research vessels that provide virtual opportunities with students.

Explore Live Cams offers countless livestream and archived nature virtual experiences. Whether you are looking for sharks in the Atlantic, majestic bald eagles, animal sanctuaries, or specific continent content, you can search this site for information.

Why not take your students on tours of the great museums of the world? Many international attractions now provide virtual access including the Louvre, which has an extremely user-friendly site.

We Are Teachers has an extensive list of author talks, activities, lesson plans, and teacher guides. Students can even listen to their favorite authors do read-alouds of their books. You can find Julie Falatko’s Snappy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in this Book) read by Stranger Things actor David Harbour. This read-aloud even comes with a teacher’s guide. Tony DiTerlizzi, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles and Kenny the Dragon, also has created a YouTube channel offering read-alouds and time lapse book illustration videos.

There is always time for the Bard. Take students on a virtual tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Watch some of the Globe Theater’s greatest productions, including such works as The Merry Wives of Windsor (2019) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013). Or leave all of that behind and travel to outer space and visit the NASA Space Station. The possibilities are endless.

This last year has taught us that we are social creatures and need connection. But our students and we are multifaceted and need time for nature and self-contemplation. So this summer while we are venturing out to see others and are embracing our inner adventurers, we should also remember to occasionally take time to be still and just breathe.

Additional Resources

“Amazing Free Virtual Zoo Tour & Free Museums Online on Your Couch”: https://www.trip.com/blog/home-travel-coronavirus-live-stream-museums-and-arts/

Georgia Aquarium: https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/beluga-whale-webcam/

Author: Kathy Carroll, AASL Leadership Development Committee Chair

As AASL Immediate Past President Kathy Carroll is chair of the AASL Leadership Development Committee.

Categories: Community, Presidential Musings

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