by Erin Rawls, Outreach Coordinator
This past spring, The Wetlands Institute booked over 30 virtual field trip programs, reaching nearly 1,500 students in classrooms across the mid-Atlantic. Along with the exciting possibilities of virtual field trips came the need to upgrade and modify our previous virtual programming setup. Through generous funding by PSEG, we were able to purchase high quality video equipment including lighting, portable audio/visual equipment, editing software, and a professional camera. The use of the professional camera allowed us to produce dynamic videos and live interactive programs that showcase animals up close and in high definition. Participants were able to clearly see the tube feet of an Atlantic Purple Sea Urchin move, or the tiny eyes of a just-hatched Horseshoe Crab, things that are difficult to spot even in person!
Perhaps the greatest expansion in virtual programming came with the ability to livestream from the field. The Wetlands Institute has always focused on being a “hands on, feet wet” place, with students getting into the mud of the marsh or the sand of the ocean. In order to replicate that experience virtually, we needed to take kids out of our indoor virtual “command station”, and out into the marsh. As we livestreamed from the field, students watched Seasonal Naturalists, in real-time, chase down fiddler crabs in the marsh, point out plants and animals along the Salt Marsh Trail, or use a seine net to catch live animals from the tidal channel, adding an element of surprise and “teachable moments” to every trip.
As we enter into a new school year, we are excited to announce an additional round of funding from PSEG that allows us to continue to increase the quality of these live-from-the-field segments, allowing students to truly experience a trip to The Wetlands Institute no matter where they are located.