SNIFFING SULFIDES OR STAYING SAFE? LEARNING WITH AND FROM STRICTURES
Lockdown necessitated independent student learning during the first months of the pandemic, and this learning involved a fuller use of our course textbook. The lesson learned through this stricture was that middle-school students often struggle to “mine a text” for information. Text-mining is a skill that must be learned by all scholars, so opportunities must be provided, and younger students must be shepherded through such exercises toward the goal of understanding through reading.
In addition, the profit gained from the strategic use of Zoom for class gatherings and from the use of Loom for producing instructional videos was substantial. Students with learning differences especially benefit from videos because they can use these at their leisure; repeated passes over diagrams and explanations thereof cement understandings of celestial, atmospheric, and terrestrial processes and systems, as well as of their interactions.
Insofar as outdoor settings offered a measure of greater freedom, some typical classroom approaches to subject matter were rethought and recast to great advantage. In particular, “Volcanorama” and “Fossilfest” minor research projects gave opportunities to students to dig into particular examples of volcanoes and fossils, respectively, and a “capstone” year-end hike around campus provided an opportunity for students to recall and summarize many things learned about the space, atmospheric, earth, and water sciences.