On becoming a virtual EE center

EE stands for Environmental Education, which is rather clunky to say and write, so its acronym is a short, snappy, and graphically-attractive replacement. And it perfectly describes Welty–first and foremost, we educate…and share, and learn, and delight in the natural world together. Our work is all about being hands-on and getting dirty and passing around a specimen while huddled together in the drizzle. We touch and listen and explain and question.

Except, right now we can’t…at least, not while standing next to each other (no touching!).

Environmental Education | Welty Environmental Center

[pullquote class=”right”]Take education online and keep the qualities that are most precious[/pullquote]As Wisconsin started to shut down in mid-March (a good thing and the best way to slow infections from a novel coronavirus that none of us have immunity against), all school field trips, weekend programs, and spring break day camps were cancelled. The City of Beloit closed Big Hill Center to the public. Our regular venues are now off-limits, except to folks practicing social distancing while hiking at the park.

Like our friends and colleagues at schools, colleges, and universities, we began to imagine how to take education online and keep the qualities that are most precious. How to maintain the personal, the spontaneous, the unexpected moments of a group hike, while talking into the blank, flat face of a camera. The learning curve is steep (there’s a reason broadcast journalism is a college major), and the production crew is highly-critical (my 12-yr old cameraman is quick to snicker), but it’s an interesting experiment to conduct and one we’ve been meaning to explore.

[pullquote class=”left”]Join us in this new digital landscape[/pullquote]It’s going to be awhile before we can all be back in the same room, so this is our reality for now. We’re getting the hang of videos (more smiling! watch the thumb on the screen!) and facebook live (so much ceiling, when maple sugaring equipment is your tripod!). We also want to experiment with other ways to engage–Zoom programs? Discussion hangouts? Photo-sharing? Maybe there’s an analog way to interact?

Join us in this new digital landscape by following us on Facebook and Instagram by subscribing to our new YouTube page…and let us know how you’d like to connect. Spring is bursting forth out there, let’s get out and enjoy it together–apart.

Brenda Plakans | Welty Executive DirectorBrenda Plakans
Executive Director, WEC