Have you ever picked up a yellow-spined National Geographic magazine, flipped through the pages and explored the world right from your own couch? Many of us have those fond memories from our youth. And in a way, we were distance learning through these experiences. We were exploring and learning more about the peoples and places that make our planet so special.

Today, we’re excited to announce that The National Geographic Society is supporting high-quality distance learning for Santa Cruz County youth through an $8,000 grant to the Coastal Watershed Council to support CWC educators Mollie Behn and Sam Adelson’s hard work pivoting CWC’s San Lorenzo River-based curriculum to a distance-learning format. Mollie and Sam are among a cohort of educators that the National Geographic Society is supporting who are pioneering new ways of teaching so that students can continue learning throughout the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those are the types of experiences that CWC is working to bring to youth across Santa Cruz County, as they participate in distance learning in their classroom, explore the San Lorenzo River watershed from home, increase their environmental and science literacy, and discover actions we can all take for a cleaner, healthier river. In the fall 2020 semester, CWC brought its distance learning program to reaching 484 elementary school students through 63 virtual classrooms, working with 21 teachers at 11 Santa Cruz County schools. Families also visit CWC’s YouTube channel to find activities to learn more about the watershed from home. Here are a few of our favorites:

Story Time: San Lorenzo River Stories of Grandma Steel

Those smiling faces and engaging voices you see and hear on those YouTube videos are CWC educators Mollie Behn and Sam Adelson who have worked tirelessly to support teachers and students and transition hands-on exploration at the San Lorenzo River to distance learning. To adapt the curriculum to a distance learning format, Sam and Mollie have been busy 1) listening to and learning about teacher and student needs, 2) researching distance learning and Universal Designs for Learning best practices, 3) creating distance learning materials, 4) sharing materials with teachers, 5) delivering lessons in virtual classroom visits, 6) receiving feedback from teachers, and 7) continuing to make changes based on feedback. Thank you Sam and Mollie for all the hard work, challenges you’ve overcome and successes you’ve had so far this year in connecting youth to the San Lorenzo River, their community and themselves!

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