The past year has been a difficult one for all of us, with the global pandemic having an effect on everyone’s lives beyond anything we could have imagined. Dynamic Earth has faced many challenges, including our science centre being closed to the public for much of 2020 and, just as we tentatively began to welcome visitors back, Government guidelines meant we were closed again at the beginning of 2021. However, we have tried to remain positive in the face of adversity, and have looked for new opportunities to share our knowledge, enthusiasm and love of science with you all.
We talked to Craig Smith, our Learning Manager about some of the challenges his team have faced during the pandemic, and how we have re-focussed our efforts on creating a whole new virtual learning product - Dynamic Earth Online - to share with teachers, families and the wider community alike.
“Lockdown and the closure of Dynamic Earth gave us the opportunity that we’ve never had before to take time to develop online learning content. For a long time we have talked about having content accessible by schools to prepare them for a visit to the centre, as well as for follow-up afterwards. However, all this takes time that we don’t usually have as the team are so busy developing & delivering workshops, outreach programmes, running our kids club and so on. Over the last year we have been able to collate an extensive catalogue of materials that we can now direct people towards - and, which will be just as useful once things return to ‘normal’ again, whenever that might be!
Developing these online resources also aids us in reaching our goals for inclusivity and ease of access. Not everyone is able to travel to Dynamic Earth or perhaps they aren’t sure if it’s something they would like. The new Dynamic Earth Online website allows for a taster of what we do, and it can all be done from the comfort of your own home, school or community setting. We have a small team, so us having a larger online presence means even more people can get involved and share in learning experiences than we could normally accommodate in person at the centre."
So what is Dynamic Earth Online? A selection of things to do, things to read and things to watch, all linked to the STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths. The kind of experiences you might have when visiting Dynamic Earth and taking part in activities with the Learning Team, but transformed into an online catalogue that you can explore yourself, in your own time.
Multiple posts have been created around each theme (e.g. rainforests; climate change; satellite technology) – each activity can work as a stand-alone topic or can be used together to create a fuller learning experience. More specifically for teachers, we are also developing Learning Pathways - so watch this space! We have tried to include the things that matter a lot to us, and we know also matter to you - such as outdoor learning, arts and craft, numeracy and literacy across learning, sustainability and global citizenship.
Craig adds “We have many objectives that we hope to achieve via our online content. A focus on women in STEM and the scientific work of black people and people of colour for example, to highlight how vital it is that STEM is inclusive of everyone. For too long these sectors of society have not been included and celebrated in the same way - and we have missed out on the knowledge of so many amazing discoveries, research and skills.. All young people need to see themselves represented so they know that doors are open to them.
We want to show a diversity of voices – highlighting the work of indigenous people protecting and conserving their land, waters and air, while also having a positive effect on the global climate and biodiversity. We are all connected by the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis, so it’s important to us that we share these stories to show it’s not just in countries like the UK that action is being taken. In fact, people in less economically developed countries are doing a lot more in many cases, and are more negatively affected by human-made environmental changes.”
Our aim has been to make our new website as fun, interesting and engaging as possible. All the subjects are linked to Earth & environmental sciences, nature, and space – topics that you would expect to encounter through a visit to Dynamic Earth or a workshop with the Learning Team; at one of our kids clubs or during our various family drop-in events.
Each activity has a purpose: developing a STEM skill such as creativity, observation, recording and identifying; teaching useful knowledge about the world around us, or, simply adding purpose to an outdoor walk. We hope to continue to build upon what we have already achieved and keep the website updated with exciting and relevant new topics each week. It looks like remote learning will be on the cards for a wee while to come, so let us inspire you and help make this experience as positive as we can!
We would love to see your pictures, and hear your stories about how you have been using our new website, whether at homeschool, or during your weekends! Please use the hashtag #DEOnline on social media and tag us in your photos or tweets!
If you would have any questions or feedback around our Learning programmes or DE Online, please get in touch. Just email email@example.com