Iowa PBS Education discovered the need for highlighting urban-specific, environmental phenomena and the engagement tools for “grown-ups”. These resources were designed for Iowa students in grades 2-5 as a part of the FIND Iowa virtual, themed field trip project. We focused our efforts in strategically targeted urban areas in Iowa where access to environmental education opportunities are made more difficult by lack of field trip access, funding/transportation challenges, and the remoteness of staffed environmental education facilities. Rather than using a deficit-based approach to providing resources, Iowa PBS designed these resources alongside educational/community experts and families in these communities.
We have achieved our outreach goals by coordinating and partnering closely with existing experts already in the communities including those in outdoor education, STEM, elementary education, and cultural organizations. The Urban Outdoors feature videos, are appropriate for elementary classrooms in both length and style and are optimized for social media sharing. Additional interactive 360° photospheres and maps will be added later in the summer, providing learners with an immersive virtual experience to explore these locations. Within the videos that accompany this project, naturalists from these parks are highlighted as local experts. As a trusted partner to many local organizations and a beloved educational partner for many families, we have cost-effectively implemented these strategies for development, distribution and engagement.
In addition to videos, we created a science activity journal for supporting parents/families or any “grown-up” while helping children explore the natural areas in their city. The goals of the science activity journal are to support parents/grown-ups by equipping them with the confidence to explore science ideas with their kids and to empower their kids to begin to more readily perceive themselves as people who are capable of being scientists. The printed Urban Outdoors Science Activity Journal has been shared with local community centers and nature centers for distribution. All project materials/support resources are distributed through the FIND Iowa site.
The result of the Urban Outdoors theme will be increased student learning in environmental science, enhanced teacher practice around place-based and environmental science concepts, and increased family engagement and outdoor experiences.