Technology enables cross-site RET exchange

Network News Fall 2011, Vol. 24 No. 2

With the help of an Adobe Connects virtual classroom, Kari O’Connell (AND) and Beth Simmons (CCE and PAL) coordinated the first cross-site virtual Research Experience for Teachers (RET) exchange this August.

The objectives of the event were to demonstrate the diversity of research experiences available across LTER’s RET participants and to provide an opportunity for educational professionals to connect and learn new strategies for bringing science to their students. The international event connected eight teachers with outreach coordinators at three LTER sites in an exchange that cut across the continental U.S. (from Massachusetts to California and Oregon) and over the Atlantic to the Caribbean islands.

This virtual “face-to-face” exchange encouraged educators to showcase their research experiences and, even better, to continue involving their students in similar science inquiry. Topics ranged from phenology research at the Andrews LTER, to the “Teacher at Sea” experience with the California Current Ecosystem LTER, and projects linking the Palmer LTER site research with climate-related topics like ocean acidification, seasonal fluctuations in precipitation, sea level rise, and water column stratification. Feedback from the RET participants suggest that the virtual classroom can be a powerful tool for cross-site exchange and a valuable mechanism for professional collaboration.

Plans are currently underway to build this kind of exchange into RET programs next summer, invite more LTER sites to participate, and expand the ways that participants can access, exchange, and collaborate virtually throughout their RET experiences.