Remember that the Biodiversity Heritage Library has made 58 million pages of biodiversity literature available for free at biodiversitylibrary.org.
A recent blog post highlighted BHL resources that can support educators and students during this time: https://blog.biodiversitylibrary.org/2020/03/bhl-resources-to-support-distance-learning.html
BHL is looking for specific examples of how BHL materials have been used in courses that can be made available as resources for others to copy or build on. Feel free to email me directly if you have examples to pass on to BHL.
External Email - Exercise Caution
There are at least four important elements to teaching a class: 1) teacher-student interactions, 2) student-student interactions, 3) equipment and supplies, 4) examples.
When a class goes online, teacher-student interactions are low quality, but not impossible. Student-student interactions are also reduced but not stopped, the students can still communicate online and offer suggestions, tell stories, etc. Equipment and supplies can be overcome, see below. The biggest problem is what I’m calling “examples” (can’t think of a better term): in our case the teaching collection. Actually seeing a physical collection, lots of bugs in a drawer, small bugs, big bugs, labels with tiny writing, etc. is an important event for students. I don’t know how to recreate that in a virtual environment.
I would have the students do a physical collection. Even if they do a terrible job, it will be an experience that they will talk about for years.
Equipment and supplies:
You aught to be able to mail stuff to the students, including a net that they are expected to mail back.
Other stuff you can mail to them:
Collecting box (see photo: use two inch foam; the handle keeps specimens from being damaged if the box turns upside down, it can be replaced with a dowel rod; cut a slit in the foam on one side for spreading leps). Students can mail back the box with specimens at the end of the course.
Pinning block ([log in to unmask] was 3D printing these for $5 each).
Pins (2 packs of 100, Bioquip).
Points ([log in to unmask] was making these 100 for $1).
Label paper (a couple sheets so they can see what it’s like).
Forceps (about $2 each https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XXXQHS8).
Glue (small Elmers).
Aspirator (I have designs for a $2 and a $10 one, but haven’t posted those yet).
Collecting containers. I like Sarstedt 60.542.307 and 60.732.001.
Students are in charge of making their own killing jars (you could send a jar, but they need to get the fingernail polish remover).
Leaflitter provides specimens year-round. A white plastic colander from Dollar Tree ($1) and a pillowcase from Goodwill make a $3 sifter. General plans for a homemade Berlese funnel can be found online (but not good ones).
The point is, you can remotely outfit students really well for not a lot of money.
What about a microscope? You need four things to make a microscope, a cell phone camera, a “microscope setting”, a lens, and a stand. The kids already have a cell phone.
Lenses: There are a ton of magnifier lenses available for cell phones. We really need someone who knows about optics to review some of these and offer advice on what’s best to use. I have a $2 one that that’s not too bad, but I haven’t tried the $7 one, etc. Something with an external light would probably be best. Again, reviews would be helpful.
Some people will need a “microscope setting” app. When I try to use my cell phone, so many things are automatic (focus, white balance, etc.) that the picture bounces around a lot. We need an app that will fix the focus at the very least. (This may already exist).
A stand would be nice as well. Something you could lay the phone on, then move the phone up and down, like a regular microscope. That doesn’t exist so far as I can tell, but there are some DIY stand designs https://www.instructables.com/id/10-Smartphone-to-digital-microscope-conversion/. I have an idea in mind and might try making it this week. Basically a big bolt on a stand and as you move a nut up and down it raises or lowers the arm that holds the camera.
The panic will pass, but it would be nice to develop some good tools along the way.