A small, rural elementary school in northern Michigan. An urban charter school in California. Separated by thousands of miles, on any given day such schools may come together to learn about astronomy, weather, habitats and more through the Michigan Science Center’s ECHO Distance Learning Program.
ECHO, which stands for Engaging in Collaborative Hands-On learning, is part of the Science Center’s Traveling Science program. It uses video conferencing to connect classrooms from any location with a museum educator who conducts interactive lessons in real time. For schools that do not have ready access to resources, distance learning like ECHO provides a direct link to informal, hands-on learning that helps bring science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to life in new and meaningful ways.
“Variety is very important for students, and ECHO helps us approach learning from every direction. When we use a variety of techniques, we can transform how students learn,” said Charles Gibson, Michigan Science Center director of innovation and outreach.
Launched in 2017, ECHO has reached more than 2,500 students in 7 states and Canada. Programs last approximately 45 minutes and require no special hardware or equipment. Hands-on materials are provided to participants in advance. Ms. Whateley from Poupard Elementary in Grosse Pointe, Mich., said, “Our third graders loved our long-distance learning experience!”
ECHO content supports Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a new set of national science standards designed to help students achieve a cohesive understanding of science over time. ECHO combines technology and hands-on elements to engage students and transform how they learn. The program is made possible by a $300,000 grant from ITC Holdings Corp. (ITC).
ITC Vice President of Engineering Joe Bennett teamed up with the Science Center for a special Arbor Day lesson on the importance of trees, how ITC works with communities to safely plant the trees away from power lines, and how ITC helps promote natural habitats in its electricity transmission corridors. “ITC is proud to be a longtime supporter of the Michigan Science Center, and to help bring its programming to the far reaches of the state and beyond,” said Bennett. “Furthermore, as a leader in connecting consumers to energy resources, we know firsthand the importance of STEM education in our industry. The budding young scientists, mathematicians and engineers we are helping inspire today will be the ones to develop the energy solutions of the future.”