Crayfish hunting and other ecology lessons amid COVID-19

Finger Lakes Community College conservation instructor John Bateman has volunteered his time giving ecology lessons and leading field trips for his hometown elementary school since his twin sons were fifth-graders there in 2011.

The pandemic closed schools in early March putting an end to those visits, but not the connection.

John has been trekking into parks and wooded areas near his home the last several weeks to record short educational videos for Village Elementary School in Hilton, Monroe County.

The videos – recorded by John with his cell phone – have become a vital tool for Village Elementary first-grade teacher Carla Heise. She has been sharing the recorded lessons with her students as she receives them, about once a week.

The elementary videos first began as demonstrations to share with his college students. As COVID-19 has closed campuses and K-12 buildings, it has opened doors for creativity and collaboration among educators at different levels. Ecology in particular can be taught at a basic level to younger children with more sophisticated lessons for college students.

In one video, John filmed himself at a local creek, modeling how to catch crayfish and other aquatic critters.

Within a day of sharing the video with students, Carla started receiving pictures showing what they had caught using the techniques John had demonstrated.  One photo shows student Lucy Smith in a puffy pink coat proudly holding a bucket filled with creek water and creatures.

“After watching the video of Mr. Bateman, Lucy insisted that we go get all of the tools to go and explore the creek,” said her dad, Jake Smith.  “We knew about where he was so we bought what we needed and went for it. Lucy had such a great time and really showed me how to do it.”

Lucy gained some bragging rights, too. According to dad, she caught seven crayfish, three fish, a few bugs and one snail.  “I only caught two crayfish,” he said.

Elementary student holding a net searching for aquatic creatures in a creek
A first-grader from Carla Heise’s class copies what she learned in one of John Bateman’s ecology videos.

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