Virtual Field Trips by Belwin a Success

By Joshua Leonard, Belwin Outdoor Science Education Director
An eighth-grade student from Saint Paul Public Schools poses with a bluebird house that she helped to install at Belwin. Photo by Joshua Leonard.

After working with the SPPS science team to support science specialists early in COVID response education, Belwin Outdoor Science (BOS) launched their first Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) on April 20. After seven weeks of programming, BOS created seven VFTs, reaching 122 classrooms and serving more than 3,000 students.

Belwin Outdoor Science’s VFTs are realizing the tremendous opportunity for students to explore nature in their own neighborhoods. In the Nature Investigators Virtual Field Trip, students collected evidence for animals and predicted how their investigations could change based on weather, time, or other variables.

Students recorded evidence for animals in Belwin’s Nature Investigators Virtual Field Trip. Crossroads Science, Jie Ming Mandarin, Adams.

We were thrilled to ask students to include caregivers and/or siblings in their nature investigations, enabling BOS to engage students in a more collectivist learning approach through distance learning. Students explored birds, and how the uniqueness of their feathers and beaks function to help them survive in diverse habitats. Students wondered how people and animals know spring has arrived, and shared evidence that spring is here. Students also searched for insects outside, and even in their own homes!

Thousands of SPPS students explored nature in their neighborhood through Belwin’s Virtual Field Trips.

Although other virtual field trips are available from national and international programs, the magic of these virtual field trips is Saint Paul Public Schools educators responding to every student comment to encourage and further student learning.

“The student response was great, with a lot of interest and enthusiasm,” says third grade teacher Thomas Kendrick. “Emotional engagement was high, and your responses to their observations spot on. You helped to stretch their minds, and your attention lavished on them is like water on a thirsty plant.”

Although COVID-19 is here now, the material created for Belwin VFTs will continue to support SPPS student understanding and skills in targeted science benchmarks into the future. These VFTs can be used as pre- and post-visit activities to reinforce student learning on-site. They can also be used to reconnect with students long after they’ve returned from their in-person field trips.

A third grader at Jie Ming Mandarin school shared their discovery of a mourning dove nest found hanging off the side of their balcony.