Fairbanks Museum Goes Virtual for Students

AROUND THE NEK-- While the Fairbanks Museum was forced to shut its’ doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic last month, they made it clear that teaching the public never stops. The museum is offering free, virtual learning programs that follow the Next-Generation Science Standards for kindergarten through eighth-grade.


These classes are currently being taught by museum educators, many of which have been teaching kindergarten through eighth-grade students at the museum for multiple decades. 


Ideas for how to address the potential closing of the museum began weeks ago, but there was a quick turn around period for providing these programs, according to Drew Bush, the Director of Programs at the Fairbanks Museum.


 “My boss, Executive Director Adam Kane, saw this coming 3-4 weeks before everything closed. Of course, at the time we were still running our normal programs for schools and the public. We began planning 2-3 weeks ago and rolled out quickly. There was only a small amount of time to prepare.”


“Once the governor announced the closure would be until the end of the year, we moved to offer classes on a topic or for a grade level that continues each week (also based on the NGSS),” Bush explained. 


During the process of offering virtual learning opportunities for students, Bush says that the museum has been in close contact with educators from across the region.


“We actually just polled teachers in our area about our online programs Monday. The feedback has largely been appreciative and thankful we are doing this. We are still determining the best format for some of our programs (i.e., pre-recorded vs. live on Zoom, downloadable educational materials vs. instructions for at-home work in the video).” The museum ended up polling about 500 educators. 


The structure of these online classes started as one-hour classes equivalent to the classes they provide during school visits, but thanks to the museum’s outreach to educators, it was determined that the one-hour class structure may not be the most efficient. 


“In response to teacher comments that one hour is really long for students to watch online, we've also shortened our classes. We've begun offering pre-recorded ones as well that have work for students to do at home. Really, we are continuing to adapt and change our schedule as we go to improve our usefulness to teachers. We still offer some of our standard one-hour classes, but we may begin offering them only at teacher request for specific schools or grades.”


The museum will be offering free, educational classes for kindergarten through eighth-grade students, as well as the public (some classes will be specifically be geared towards adults and children) for the duration of the pandemic. These programs offered by the museum are provided through mediums such as Zoom and Youtube. No internet? No problem. The museum's classes are also being broadcasted on Kingdom Access Television, and have been uploaded to the server for cable access statewide.


“We’ve had people contact us to say they watch our class in Ludlow, VT or Burlington, VT,” Bush said.


For more information about the virtual learning opportunities provided by the Fairbanks Museum and to check out their schedule of classes, visit fairbanksmuseum.org. To get a taste of what some of the classes are like, check out two of their recent classes “Outdoors: Winter and Spring Identification” and “COVID-19 Update and Staying Home."