12 Making existing activities/projects more STEAM

Exploring Environmental Science Through Project-Based Learning

  1. Use the National Park Service (NPC) portal for educators: This portal designed specifically for educators hosts over 1,100 lessons, many created by environmental science professionals. Look for lessons that provide field data or reports that students can analyze or interpret. For instance, one lesson is focused on predicting the effects of climate change.
  2. Activate distance learning programs: National Park Service (NPC) groups have long offered distance learning programs. Larger parks, such as Grand Canyon National Park, offer state-of-the-art programs that are in high demand. As well, a phone call or email might connect you with a ranger willing to support student inquiry processes.
  3. Set up virtual field trips: To engage visitors during closures, many parks developed online field trips. The National Park Foundation has catalogued invitations to exploration with its Virtual Passport program. Resources such as a guided hike for Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site can become entry points for projects on habitats, animal adaptations, and other topics.
  4. Enrich lessons with multimedia resources: Recorded programs are excellent sources of outside expertise. Learning about scientific concepts or knowledge that rangers rely on to support conservation work can be enhanced with multimedia projects. In addressing the effects of humans’ impact on the environment or understanding relationships between living organisms, teachers can supplement lessons with visuals or short videos on national ecosystems.
  5. Offer participation in virtual Junior Ranger programs: Younger visitors to parks enjoy earning Junior Ranger badges by demonstrating the knowledge they have gathered during their trip. Several of these programs, many of which cover a wide range of scientific topics, are available online. You can use the resources to fill out your projects or offer them to students as extension opportunities.
  6. Encourage students to work like scientists: The Next Generation Science Standards in USA (NGSS) isn’t just a checklist of content goals. It codifies science and engineering practices used by professional scientists that help students understand how science is done in the real world. It is sometimes tricky to teach and assess these, especially in a remote setting, but using tools from the projects the parks service provides creates excellent opportunities. Students can analyse soundscape data to learn how scientists use that to measure biodiversity and preserve wilderness. They can also engage in arguments based on naked-eye records of the night sky to determine the health of ecosystems, or read articles about how geochemical tracing is used to track the movement of threatened species and communicate findings in a way that others can understand. All of these ideas can support existing projects or be expanded upon to create all new ones.
  1. Adapt park solutions for communities: Parks are open-air laboratories and playgrounds for environmental scientists to study and/or solve problems. Students can take this same approach in their own neighbourhoods. For example, teachers can ask students to learn about the science used to develop the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERT) in order to create a watershed plan for their own region. Or they could read reports on the pinyon-juniper woodlands of the Southwest and take on the role of advisers to help protect their own local forests threatened by increased human activity and climate stressors. Or they can read about success stories like Shenandoah National Park’s ability to address air quality and see if similar approaches could solve issues in their own neighbourhoods.

While remote learning has its challenges, with the right tools teachers and students can still learn and experiment through project-based learning.


A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web. These can be created using various programs, including a simple word processing document that includes links to websites.

Webquests can be a valuable addition to a collaborative classroom. One of the goals is to increase critical thinking by employing higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.

A WebQuest usually includes sections for Introduction, Task, Process, Evaluation, Conclusion, and Credits:

  •   The Introduction describes the nature of the lesson and the essential question(s) that will be answered through completion of the exercise.
  •   The Task section describes the expected results for the WebQuest. This would include a description of the final work product.
  •   The Process tells students how they should go about accomplishing the end result. This section would include your links to Web sources.
  •   The Evaluation provides a concrete explanation of how performance will be evaluated. This is usually accomplished through the creation of a rubric.
  •   The Conclusion provides a summary and ties it all together. This section may also include additional Web links for further study.
  •   The Credits section provides links and citations for any sources of information, including media,that you have used while completing the WebQuest.

Since most WebQuests are done in small collaborative groups, they can foster cooperative learning and collaborative activities. Students will often be assigned roles, allowing them to roleplay in different positions, and learn how to deal with conflict within the group.

Webquests can be a versatile tool for teaching students. They can be used to introduce new knowledge, to deepen knowledge, or to allow students to test hypotheses as part of a final interaction with knowledge. The integration of computers and the Internet also increase students’ competency with technology. By having specific task lists, students can stay on task. By having specific sources of information, students can focus on using resources to answer questions rather than vetting resources to use which is a different skill altogether.

Virtual Labs


The Go-Lab Initiative arose from the successful Go-Lab project (2012-2016) and gave the initiative its name. The aim of the Go-Lab Initiative is to facilitate the use of innovative learning technologies in STEM education, with a particular focus on online laboratories (Labs) and inquiry learning applications (Apps). Using the Go-Lab ecosystem, teachers can find various Labs and Apps, and create customized Inquiry Learning Spaces (ILSs). Furthermore, the Go-Lab Initiative conducts training for teachers on the topics of Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE), development of 21st-century skills, and the use of ICT and the Go-Lab ecosystem in the classroom.


Labster is a company dedicated to developing fully interactive advanced lab simulations based on mathematical algorithms that support open-ended investigations. We combine these with gamification elements such as an immersive 3D universe, storytelling and a scoring system which stimulates students’ natural curiosity and highlights the connection between science and the real world.


Envisage is online virtual labs, i.e. virtual spaces emulating real laboratories where students can accomplish a number of learning tasks, have the potential to revolutionize the educational landscape by providing students with distance courses and curricula that otherwise would be difficult if not infeasible to be offered. The objective of ENVISAGE is to offer a solution towards optimizing the learning process in virtual labs and therefore maximize their impact in education.