As the spread of COVID-19 has continued to grow and Pepperwood has remained closed to the public, our education team made the hard decision to transition our summer teen program, TeenNat, to a virtual program this year. When we made the announcement to our applicants, we were surprised and delighted that most of them were still very interested and excited about participating – in fact, we have a full cohort of teens filling every spot! This year looks a bit different, but the main tenets of TeenNat remain the same: connection to the natural world, connection to science, and connection to each other.
Lessons are co-taught by our educators, and revolve around themes of ecology, field research and science, and connections with the land through photography, nature journaling, and other creative arts. Students meet online several times weekly to participate in lessons, small group discussions, and sharing about their experiences in natural spaces close to them during their weekly “sit spot” time. Between online meetings, participants are equipped with opportunities to engage in independent learning adventures, including time outdoors practicing science skills. They each find a special place in nature (either a local or regional park, their backyard, or some other place they can find solitude) and journal and reflect on what they see happening in the natural world around them. They also have fun contributing to community/citizen science projects usingiNaturalist, eBird, and other platforms, which help them create personal observations of local flora and fauna they see on their excursions around the county.
The teens, ages 13-18, experience a mini-conference with experts from local environmental organizations, where they learn about future career options in STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). Virtual TeenNat culminates with student-driven projects including creative short films, photographs, songs, and poetry, as well as research projects on plants or animals they chose to study. Look for the finished projects later this month on our website and YouTube channel! We are grateful for the support we receive from our members and donors like you, who make it possible for us to offer this program free of charge!