Meaghan Caskey, Editor/Copywriter Intern, San Diego River Park Foundation
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many San Diego River Park Foundation education programs depended on in-person, hands-on, and close-up interactive discoveries about wildlife. The sensory experiences and connections that could be made with nature fostered students' confidence with science and the outdoors. Transitioning and modifying nature education programs in response to the pandemic has not been a simple task. However, the Foundation’s determination to ensure that students still have the ability to connect with nature has led to the creation of engaging virtual programs consisting of scientist and educator interactions, as well as unique scientific experiments that can be done in a virtual environment.
The overall goal of the San Diego River Park Foundation’s virtual programming is to provide on-demand, accessible and interactive virtual content, to empower students to make meaningful interactions with science. They use personalized mentorship, low ratio interactions with our educators, scientific worksheets, virtual field trips, and nature story time videos as part of their programming.
As students begin to return to in-person classroom education, the San Diego River Park Foundation has been collaborating with schools to incorporate both hands-on nature experiences and virtual programs. Children work with scientific researchers and gain hands-on experience by taking part in raising fish eggs, growing acorns, and examining invertebrates living in the San Diego River. Thanks to program sponsors, these virtual programs are offered to schools free of charge, helping to serve students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. To further improve accessibility, the virtual programs’ information and worksheets are provided in English, Spanish, and Arabic, to accommodate participants that read different languages.
Ultimately, the strength of this new virtual program has proven that just as the River may alter its course, but always finds the way to the ocean, so too, has our education team leaned in to getting creative despite the limitations.
The San Diego River Park Foundation also works with community volunteers to provide family friendly trash clean ups, tree planting, and other stewardship activities. Currently, the Foundation is gearing up for River Kids Discovery Days, to help kids all around San Diego interact with the San Diego River and the nature that encompasses it.
Programs are also offered to community groups, such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other youth groups, to help inspire a broad reach. To learn more about getting your family, classroom or youth group involved in this Program, please visit sandiegoriver.org/cool_river or email firstname.lastname@example.org.