Over the past five months, most of the Schuylkill Center staff has been working at home. For us, being indoors is anathema to the spirit of our mission of connecting people with nature. But, we have pressed on with our Zoom meetings and online teaching while continuing to learn how to share our passion for the environment with our students, members and the public via a virtual platform. Here are three vignettes of how our staff is facing the Coronavirus head-on.
Ann Ward, Kindergarten Lead Teacher
When the virus hit, Ann, together with her co-teachers, embraced the new digital format and delivered Nature Preschool to her virtual classroom, the Mighty Oaks.
While she missed the in-person morning meetings, she noted, “the fun thing about the virtual meetings was that our students were bringing guests with them like pets, siblings, and the occasional parent.” She smiles, “the children could share their environment with us through their computer or Ipad and there became this sense of normalcy in the midst of all this uncertainty.”
Towards the end of the school year, Ann decided that having each student raise their own silkworm at home would lend itself to emergent learning, an approach that relies on the children’s interests and the circumstances of the day to dictate the learning content. ‘Project silkworm’ became a chance for children to have hands-on observations of the lifecycle of their silkworms; they could then share their observations with each other online. While the school year is over, the silkworms continue their metamorphosis of spinning their cocoons which will molt into a moth.
Aaliyah Green Ross, Director of Education
Aaliyah was managing her work/family balance until her spouse suspected he had contracted the Coronavirus in April. Despite his test coming back negative, “he had all the symptoms and was sick for five weeks,” she says. “That meant that he couldn’t help take care of our two kids.” This was especially time-consuming with her daughter, Naomi, who was attending 2nd grade virtually.
While Aaliyah appreciated the work and dedication of Naomi’s teachers, she still had an incredible amount of responsibility as a parent. “I had to copy down all Naomi’s assignments, print them, photograph them then upload them to submit. I felt like I had two full-time jobs.” Fortunately, her husband has recovered from the virus and Naomi is enjoying the warm weather and sharing in the joy of the outdoors with her mom.
Chris Strub, Assistant Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation
In mid-March, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic staff quickly assessed their situation and realized protocols were going to have to drastically change in order for them to safely care for the patients and each other.
Even with a reduction in the intake of patients and an absence of volunteers, they faced an additional challenge when Chris’ spouse, Sarah, contracted the Coronavirus in mid-May. This forced Chris to quarantine for 14 days and the Clinic temporarily closed due to limited staffing. “While I never tested positive for the virus,” Chris says, “I didn’t come into the Clinic because I didn’t want to infect my co-workers.” Happily, Sarah recovered from the virus and the clinic reopened in mid-June.
Donna Struck, Director of Finance
Donna Struck has been juggling her work/life balance while caring for her mother who was moved into her assisted living facility’s memory care unit in February. With three siblings in close proximity, each one would try to visit her mother regularly. “Having that human contact really helps her,” Donna says. “But since March, they’ve curtailed all visitors, stopped all memory care activities and eliminated communal dining.” For a person with dementia, removing these familiar routines compromises their mental health and Donna is concerned about her mom’s rapid decline. Instead of visiting in person, “we see my mom through the window of her first floor apartment. It’s kind of ridiculous watching us make our way to her window through these beautifully manicured flowers.” As of this writing, scheduled outdoor visits have commenced and Donna and her siblings are starting to see signs of improvement – a huge relief.
Amy Whisenhunt, Assistant Director of Individual Giving
The impact of the virus hit close to Amy’s family. Her aunt Margaret passed away from COVID-19 in April in Richmond, VA. “My aunt was always very supportive of me,” Amy reminisced. “I remember her sharing her love for animals. That has definitely had a positive impact on me and the work I do at the Schuylkill Center.”
All of the Schuylkill Center staff is still navigating the challenges/opportunities the virus continues to have in our home and at our workplace.
By Amy Krauss, Director of Communications