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Virtual Learning: Making Connections through Conservation Education

Virtual Learning: Making Connections through Conservation Education

By Leanne Deschenes, Registration Coordinator at Butterfly Pavilion

The world is getting smaller. You hear the phrase all the time.  What does it mean?  Maybe it means bumping into your neighbor while walking through Butterfly Pavilion’s nature trails. Perhaps it is social networking with people in different countries. Better yet, it could be watching a Blue Morpho butterfly emerge in Wings of the Tropics from a pupa that it spun in Central America. This age of travel and technology helps bring people and ideas together.  That’s where we come in.

Butterfly Pavilion links tiny wonders to large audiences across the big planet. We partner with scientists on butterfly farms in Costa Rica and Malaysia, conduct research in Tanzania and Mongolia, and teach learners across the United States, Canada and beyond about the unsung heroes of the animal kingdom. Sometimes our work doesn’t require a plane ticket, or even a bus ride.

One way that Butterfly Pavilion conveys its mission far and wide is through our Distance Learning program. Distance learning brings environmental education to classrooms with just a click of a mouse.  All a teacher needs is a computer, webcam and internet (a group of students helps, too!). Viewers can tune in to a variety of curriculum-aligned programs including Besieged Bees, Monarch Mysteries and Pollinator Protector. There is also a Virtual Invertebrate Encounter for all ages, from tiny toddlers to smart seniors who don’t even need to ride in a car to meet Butterfly Pavilion’s infamous invertebrates.

While distance learning offers a point-to-point cyber experience, Butterfly Pavilion live streams allow multiple classrooms to participate in the same session. This October, Butterfly Pavilion aired a free live stream event titled Arachnids Around Us.  We taught kids about spiders and un-taught some misconceptions that give web-weavers a bad rap. Last year, over one-thousand people registered for just one day of live streams!  Classes located as close as Jefferson County, and as intercontinental as Africa, sign up for these world-wide webinars.

There are many benefits to virtual learning with Butterfly Pavilion. Distance learning and live streams cost little for teachers who don’t need to plan for buses, permission slips, and other things that can make field trips tricky. They promote comprehension by providing visual aids and live interaction, and can be translated into Spanish or modified for specific learning needs. The low-cost, online format allows Butterfly Pavilion to expand its reach without expanding its classrooms.

The science education theme of inter-connectivity rings loudly with virtual learning. In the program Monarch Mysteries, students study a map that shows flight patterns of a butterfly’s “parent” and “great-grandparent” generations. Associating butterflies with people helps children understand the hefty concept of migration. In Virtual Invertebrate Encounter, students interpret invertebrate characteristics through relating the needs of animals to their own basic needs of food, water, shelter and space. According to a teacher, “This was a great opportunity for our students to feel like they were at Butterfly Pavilion even though they weren't there physically. The information taught was excellent and the overall experience was invaluable, especially at a time when field trips are not always possible due to funding and scheduling.” Another participant reflected, “My students are very interested in planting milkweed at their houses so they can have monarchs!” Through remote education we join students with one another, with nature, and with Butterfly Pavilion.

As people gain a better understanding of nature, we uncover the depth to mysteries like migration and metamorphosis. Students unite far and wide to study science through live streams, and don’t even need to migrate anywhere to participate. Ever-expanding technology allows little learners to dive into big concepts as they tackle some of the world’s greatest questions. Butterfly Pavilion’s distance learning and live stream programs help make their journey to explore those questions a little more special.  Is it a small world, after all, or are we just more connected?

Tune in!  Are you interested in connecting with Butterfly Pavilion?  Teachers, homeschool groups, camp counselors, scout leaders and others can register for distance learning programs.  Groups and individual students can sign up for live streams through https://butterflies.org/livestreams/.  We look forward to “visiting” with you!

Blog

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