by Brooke Knapick, Director of Educational Program Development

As a return to the 2020-2021 academic school year commences, an all, or nearly all, virtual learning environment becomes reality for both formal and non-formal educators alike. At The Wetlands Institute, our early endeavors into remote and virtual learning, including our Summer Nature Program Adventure Chests, and their associated virtual Bitmoji Adventure Spaces, were a definite success with over 115 children experiencing the best of summer camp from the safety and protection of their own homes. Similarly, since June 2020, the Virtual Wetlands Experience – filled with educational resources for parents, students, and educators; virtual Institute tours and animal encounter videos; community connections; and much more – has been a welcomed and embraced initiative with nearly 1,690 visits to the webpage with 689 people returning to the site more than once.

Along with these successes, however, came inevitable learning experiences, and we are now leveraging both the successes and lessons learned to adapt our formal education programs, including our Environmental Education Field Trip Program, Traveling Environmental Education Program, Science Education at Sea Program, Scout Program, and Nature Education for Homeschool Educators and Students (NEHST) to meet the needs of the new virtual education landscape. As studies reemerge highlighting the numerous benefits, both mentally and physically, of teaching outdoors, educators reimagine their academic year and look to realign their focus more acutely with this outdoor teaching style as one way for promoting equity, as well as health and safety, for their students.

For over 50 years, The Wetlands Institute has offered one of the best outdoor classroom environments in South Jersey, and as this current health crisis affects the formal learning environment, we stand ready to offer an enriching and unique learning opportunity to our students and our local community. Whether it be offering our grounds as a safe outdoor learning space, partnering with local schools to provide outdoor, place-based education programs on their school grounds, or by continuing to offer our traditional in-person programs, alongside our new Naturalist guided virtual program options, we are welcoming participants of all ages to choose from a number of hands-on activities and/or virtual experiences to customize a wetlands experience in the best format for each classroom, youth group, campground, or organization.

We know there are many steps remaining to addressing the new education frontier, and this is only our next step, but we invite you to rediscover and engage in what we have to offer.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

A rare glimpse inside our virtual Bitmoji Adventure Spaces, part of our Summer Nature Program Adventure Chests. These Bitmoji Adventure Spaces provide online access to videos, activities, and other fun, educational content related to each week’s theme.

Are you looking for a unique birthday or surprise gift for that special child in your life? Or want to supplement your at home science learning and fun? Good news! We made extra chests in all your favorite themes.

Call (609) 368-1211 to order yours today!