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Vermont museums provide content for online learners

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 8:32 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Whether learning online or in the classroom, Vermont’s big science museums are helping out with supplemental learning.

Four Science VT is an online platform aimed at offering students a one-stop shop for supplemental learning opportunities.

They can virtually visit any of the four science centers: the ECHO Leahy Center, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, and Montshire Museum of Science.

The idea is to boost students’ education whether they are learning in class, remotely, in a hybrid model or being homeschooled.

Chris Collier is the director of onsite programming at VINS. He says the content is built for anyone.

“Anyone can go on there and get at-home learning activities to really round out the learning of students and maybe take things to another level that they might not otherwise be able to. So we might teach kids about the physics of X or get them outside exploring and finding certain animals in different habitats,” said Collier.

Collier also says it’s all about getting kids outside, learning and using the world around them.

In Burlington, the ECHO Leahy Center is offering supplemental learning to keep kids creative.

“It’s a special opportunity to hone some of our skills,” said Elizabeth Nuckols, the youth programs manager at ECHO.

Nuckols says back when schools went online, they weren’t allowed in schools and they needed a new way to reach students.

Online content was the best way to do that.

“We’re offering complimentary and enhancement STEM education for our visitors and our school partners,” said Nuckols.

Nuckols says ECHO is offering a Virtual STEM Academy that includes videos and lessons that members can access online.

The lesson plan includes a STEM educator introduction, offline hands-on activities, breakout sessions later in the day, and of course, the showmanship that makes the ECHO experience.

But it also gets students engaged in the world around them, no matter their resources.

“What many parents and teachers are looking for is that offline engagement where kids are active, they’re using their hands and they are thinking while they are doing something,” said Nuckols.

The academy meets once a week and costs $30 for members and $45 for nonmembers. Teachers will also have access to recorded lessons for free.

For ECHO, they have one simple goal.

“Our goal is to offer something 45 minutes in the morning, where we can connect, build a bit of community, we can put on a bit of a show, engage the kids in a way that might be unique and different and really kind of spark their imaginations and their interest in a subject,” said Nuckols.

The academy is being offered at three different levels kindergarten through fifth grade.

Lesson one for the fourth- to fifth-grade window will be exploring the earth and the far reaches of the galaxy.

ECHO is making sure that no matter what the students’ learning situation is for the fall, they are there for support.

“All of our programs would be accessible and be able to support all those different scenarios,” said Nuckols.

ECHO will also be offering a child care program for kids fourth through third grade to support children during the day.

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