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Water Scientists Virtually Connect with Pre-K to High School Students through Facebook Live

University of Florida agricultural education and communication graduate students connected students in pre-K through high school and their families with university water scientists in Facebook Live events held during the spring semester.

Earlier this semester, Jamie Loizzo, assistant professor of agricultural communication, launched a new Scientist Online graduate course focused on connecting scientists with students around the world.

The Scientist Online series is one of the newest additions to Streaming Science, a program that brings science directly to schools, clubs and students wherever there is an internet connection.

“Our original plan was to have schools register and connect with the scientists through Skype in the Classroom,” said Jacqueline Aenlle, an agricultural education and communication Ph.D. student in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “When many schools started moving to remote education because of COVID-19, we changed our plan to ensure students still have the opportunity to connect with our scientists.”

In collaboration with the UF/IFAS department of soil and water sciences, the first program featured AJ Reisinger, assistant professor of urban soil and water quality. Reisinger specializes in ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry of urban environments. Through this Facebook Live event, Reisinger and the graduate students discussed the relationship between plants, animals and humans with water ecosystems; urban watersheds and ways to apply water conservation practices at home. In a later event, Adam Siders, soil and water sciences Ph.D. student, shared his research with water ecosystems, food webs and manatees.

“I think our program is unique because it can virtually transport students to a completely different place,” Aenlle said. “Not only do students get to ask questions and talk to the scientist, but we get to show them field sites, research labs and other workspaces that the scientists use every day.”

The Facebook Live programs are available on the Streaming Science Facebook page, facebook.com/StreamingScience. While the programs took place as live events, they have been archived for anyone to watch later.

The parent program of Scientist Online, Streaming Science, started as a way for Loizzo to teach and research science communication at the college level, while also showing middle and high school students interested in science the different careers available to them.

“Thanks to visual, audio and online technologies, we can continue to leverage new and different formats for not only reaching schools, but now, we can also reach families due to coronavirus social distancing,” Loizzo said. “Streaming Science has been a way for us to connect different disciplines of science to students around the world that might not have a chance to speak with these scientists.”

In the past, Loizzo and her students have conducted electronic field trips about fire ecology and conservation, bats and alternative energy, as well as podcast episodes about hurricanes, big data and women in STEM.

Loizzo and the Streaming Science team also encourage schools and families to utilize Streaming Science’s photo essays, videos, electronic field trip recordings and 360-degree tours for student STEM engagement and learning during COVID-19 social distancing.

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