Author: Laura Reed
Readers who keep up with the Archbold Biological Station weekly articles know that we have had an interesting couple of months! The station has been closed to visitors and staff transitioned to working from home, communicating through virtual meetings, and only performing the bare minimum ‘essential’ activities permitted on-site. One of the most challenging transitions was for the Education Program—how would Director of Education Dustin Angell continue to teach schoolchildren and visitors about Archbold and the local habitats?
When Florida began sheltering in place, the Archbold Communications Team acted quickly. Thursday seminar events normally presented in the Frances Archbold Hufty Learning Center moved online as free Zoom webinars. The Education Program rolled out the Discovery Classroom online learning series, which featured Dustin exploring different scrub locations in real time with a phone and a selfie-stick, to the delight of children and adults alike! Dustin says, “I was worried it wouldn’t feel real, like I was just practicing for a tour by myself, but we found ways to use technology to interact with the viewers and even have guests each episode.” The execution of both series of events quickly evolved as the Archbold team became ‘Zoom experts,’ and the public reaction was more than the team could have imagined. Executive Assistant Laura Reed was relieved, “The Communications Team put so much work into the development, preparation, and presentation of those events…the entire process was completely new and we dove straight in, learning as we went along, with no idea how it would be received. It was enormously gratifying to see that we had reached over a hundred viewers for most of our events!” By May, the Archbold events were much more polished and streaming live on Facebook, reaching even more viewers.
Now as June approaches, Dustin Angell normally would be in full preparation mode for Archbold’s annual Ecology Summer Camp, known by alumni as “scrub camp.” Sadly, this, the 29th year of scrub camp, had to be cancelled along with hundreds of other events in the area…so what did Dustin do? You guessed it…he created the first ever Archbold Virtual Ecology Summer Camp! “Cancelling our in-person camp was hard, especially knowing how much it means to so many families, but I’m honestly excited about what we are planning for virtual camp,” says Dustin. “It is a chance to support the campers’ explorations of the nature in their own yards and neighborhoods. I hope they gain a deeper appreciation for where they live and make connections between what they observe and the bigger picture of science and conservation in our region.” Laura elaborates, “Following the success of the Discovery Classroom events, we knew Dustin could host an engaging and accessible virtual camp for children, but he has gone above and beyond by creating an exceptional experience packed with activities that can be done with simple household items, right outside our own homes.”
In this virtual camp, campers will complete fun at-home assignments, video-chat in small moderated groups, and watch live virtual field trips where Dustin will live-stream from different ecosystems. At home, campers will create science notebooks and explore the nature in their yards and neighborhoods, then share their science notebook projects with their groups. Dustin will also give live demos with snakes and animal skulls.
Virtual camp sessions will run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during four weeks in June. Parents can register their children ages 7-12 for one week sessions at Archbold’s website. In addition to camp sessions, on Tuesdays in June Dustin will lead Virtual Field Trips to different locations on Archbold’s properties. Field trips are included with all camp registrations, but are available to all ages without a camp registration. For more information on these and Archbold’s other online events for June, visit