Adopting Zoom Culture at Lloyd Center for the Environment

by Adeline Bellesheim, Lloyd Center Educator/Naturalist

As the weeks go by during this pandemic, the new “normal” starts to feel more comfortable. Like any other work operation, the staff at the Lloyd Center is adapting to these intense changes. Although it has been months since the entire staff has sat in a room together, there is still a large sense of comradery here. The property must be maintained, and our animals require daily attention. We have developed a system of rotation in order to meet all of our goals as an environmental education and research center. If we are lucky, sometimes we even run into another staff member from a distance at the Lloyd Center property! It is hard to feel an overwhelming sense of isolation with such a supportive group of people.

In order to keep things running at the Lloyd Center, it is extremely important for us to communicate. Members of the education staff connect on a daily basis in order to successfully launch our 1pm lessons on social media. Although the research department is used to isolation on the beaches looking for plovers, or in the woods searching for bugs, they are still catching up on data collection and analysis. Every week the entire staff sits down in our homes and join in a Zoom call to catch up on how things are operating throughout the different departments. Even though we are spread out throughout the entire south coast region, Zoom allows us to connect as if we are all together on the third floor of the main building, just like the ‘old days’.

This is not the only advantage that this video chat platform has provided for the Lloyd Center. Schools have been closed for over two months, and we are missing our students dearly. Many of the education staff members have formed close bonds with our students in their classrooms through months of Feathery Focus lessons and Coastal Exploration programs. The classrooms of Dartmouth and Fall River elementary schools use to fill with screams of excitement when we would walk in for our monthly lessons. Now is the time where they should be visiting us for their field trip, which would sum up everything they learned all year. Although that is no longer possible, the Lloyd Center staff has made it possible to transition this final lesson to Zoom.

Many adults are using Zoom to communicate with their coworkers about business affairs and other matters. There is a certain “Zoom etiquette” that many people have begun to pick up on. Mute your microphone when you are not speaking to drown out background noise. Don’t wear pajama pants, even if you think nobody can see your bottom half. The first few calls may have been an adjustment, but most people have started to get it down. But, as any teacher will tell you, when you are Zoom-ing with a group of 20 nine-year-olds, all of these rules go straight out of the window! The lesson always goes fairly smoothly. The parents are there to assist with technical support, and the students know to mute themselves during a presentation. A question is asked, and they politely raise their hands to answer. Once the learning begins to wind down and there is room at the end for questions, that’s when things start to get interesting. You may not feel tempted to show your boss a panorama of your room or your favorite stuffed animal, but these children who have been home for months are dying for some show and tell.

A virtual classroom is not quite the same as teaching in person, but we are so grateful for a way to connect with our students. In times of social distancing and face masks, it is so nice to turn on a computer and see young, smiling faces looking back at you. Even on mute, it is easy to see when a student is excited about the material. We are happy to be able to share lessons on field marks, habitat exploration, and much more. It has definitely been far from a normal spring for the Lloyd Center, but we are so thankful for the amazing teachers, students, and everyone who has made it possible to visit our students in their Zoom classrooms.