Metro Wire Staff
Learning about caring for injured wildlife, beneficial local plants or navigating the outdoors is now as easy as watching an online video, thanks to environmental education and interpretation students at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s Schmeeckle Reserve and Central Wisconsin Environmental Station.
As part of their education each semester, students in practicum classes at both university field stations create and lead in-person public nature programs. When nearly all of these were canceled this spring because of COVID-19, the students adapted by creating videos of their presentations, either at home or on location. The result is 23 family nature videos, five preschool videos and two summer camp activity videos, all available for free online.
“The videos are a great resource for families, for homeschooling parents and anyone interested in nature,” said Megan Espe, Schmeeckle Reserve’s outreach coordinator and practicum instructor. “The information can be used while walking at the reserve or put to use right in your own backyard.”
The students learned how to use video editing software and redesigned their programs for an online audience, Espe said. The classes met on Zoom to practice, discuss and get feedback on the videos.
These environmental educators share information on a variety of wildlife topics, outdoor navigation, foraging, birding, lawn and gardening tips and nature-based activities. The preschool series is more interactive, with songs and activities.
“I was really impressed with the students’ creativity, enthusiasm and support of each other,” Espe said. Adding a video aspect to the course increases their skillset and will be used again when students return to campus, she said.
Hannah Badgett of Janesville, a May graduate in wildlife education, worked on several videos. She said she enjoyed having the creative freedom to present information in new ways and looks forward to using technology in her future career.
“These days, knowing how to create engaging virtual material is incredibly important,” she said. “I developed lots of new skills and patience for teaching online, which will help me reach a wider audience.”
Schmeeckle Reserve’s trails are open to the public from sunrise to sunset and picnic tables near the back Visitors Center which remains closed. Feeders in the bird viewing area are filled on a weekly basis.
“When using the reserve, please continue to follow social distancing guidelines for the safety of all visitors,” said reserve director Jim Buchholz.
Find student videos and information on offerings on both field stations at www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/schmeeckle and www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/cwes (at CWES, see virtual links under “School Programs” and “Summer Camp.”)