Wildlife displays deliver the outside into the play life-style for New York elementary faculty college students
DuBOIS – Penn State DuBois Assistant Professor of Wildlife Technology Emily Thomas not only found silver linings during the pandemic, but provided them too.
Thomas recently gave presentations on wildlife through Zoom to first and second graders at Shelter Rock Elementary School on Long Island, New York. She gave two presentations, one focusing on bald eagles and one on reptiles and amphibians.
A former student of Thomas virtually introduced her to Shelter Rock teacher Holly Weinstein, who planned to use technology to reduce the distance between her students and guest speakers that could add to her educational experience.
Thomas shared the opportunity with some top-class guests. Weinstein stated, “I reached out to Emily because I started a program called Class Speakers during quarantine. I found that when guest speakers came to our class, Zooms, it was pretty much the only way to keep my second graders studying. So many experts took the time to speak to us, including the New York State paleontologist when we learned about dinosaurs, the stage manager on Broadway’s The Lion King when we learned about New York City being an entomologist when we learned about insects and Boomer Esiason when we learned about exercise. “
Thomas said she loved sharing her passion for the outdoors and was excited to find a ray of hope during the pandemic. “It’s really nice to have this opportunity to speak to these students and it might never have happened if we didn’t have to change the way we do things during the pandemic,” said Thomas. “It’s great to connect with students miles away and expose them to different species of wildlife.”
Thomas used her own pet ball python, Zeus, for her presentation on reptiles and amphibians and was pleased with the students’ reaction to Zeus as well as the rest of the presentation. She said, “I love the excitement. The kids are so engaged. The teachers really do a great job. “
“I have to say I had a lot of class speakers at the time and Emily was one of the best,” said Weinstein. “She was fully prepared with an amazing presentation. She showed incredible pictures and also videos. The students were amazed at what they had learned. Emily taught her as if she had taught elementary her entire career. She gave them amazing detail at their level which is pretty incredible for a college professor. Your presentation was really excellent and was badly needed at this time. Even though we are back in school full time we are completely masked and separated with plastic dividers. School doesn’t look or feel right at all. When Emily showed up, it was a much needed light in our time. My students will never see a picture, video, or bald eagle in the sky without thinking about Emily’s presentation. “
Thomas’s presentation is also an example of how successful both educators and students can be using distance learning methods.
Weinstein said: “Before COVID, I read books or showed videos on various topics. I quickly realized that all of the technology we use can open the walls of the classroom and real experts can now enter the room. In my opinion, this is the silver lining from COVID. The presentation with Emily Thomas was the perfect example of how we as a community of educators can come together to enrich the lives of our students, regardless of age or location. Magic can really be done remotely – all you need is a computer and zoom code. “
Thomas graduated from Penn State DuBois with an Associate of Science degree in Wildlife Technology in 2007. In 2009 she earned a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Wildlife Option, and in 2011 a Masters in Wildlife and Fisheries Science – all from Penn State. She started teaching at Penn State DuBois in 2012.