The trick to organizing a big event like NCLI Day is dividing it up into smaller, more manageable tasks. When you take those tasks one at a time, share the work with partners, and keep the lines of communication open, the job often becomes a lot easier than it originally appeared.
Here are some step-by-step suggestions:
- Build partnerships with fellow educators, administrators, and relevant community members, as discussed above. These conversations will help you to flesh out details about the size and scope of your event, identify specific components you do or don’t want to include, and secure “buy in” from people you’ll rely on for key contributions. For example, you need the approval of your principal up front. And you want enthusiastic expressions of commitment from other teachers before making detailed plans.
- Choose a setting for your NCLI Day activities. The ideal location is one on or near your school grounds, where a variety of natural systems and processes can be observed, such as rock formations, a stream or pond, and plant and animal life. But you can find Earth science anywhere, even in an urban setting. The top priority is leading young people outdoors to a location where they can safely observe and interact with Earth systems and processes.
- Plan your NCLI Day educational activities. Cover Earth science topics that are relevant to the selected natural setting, so students see how science relates to their world. Make the most of NCLI Day by conducting investigations or experiments that couldn’t or wouldn’t ordinarily be done in the classroom, such as testing pond water or taking soil samples. Most importantly, plan activities that enable young people to discover the Earth science behind natural phenomena on their own. (For recommended activities, see Education Stations and Activities.)
- Finally, attend to the details. Will your NCLI Day planning partners share questions and updates via frequent meetings, email, or some other means? Will students conduct activities in the classroom to prepare them ahead of time? Will their parents and guardians need to sign permission forms before the event? Will students travel from class to your NCLI Day location on foot, by bus, or some other way? Will your event feature a speech, presentation, or introductory remarks by a public figure or geoscientist? Will students remain in one large group at your NCLI Day location, or will they split up into smaller groups to explore “education stations” dealing with various topics? Will special equipment or materials be necessary to conduct activities? Will parent volunteers be needed to escort small groups of students from one education station to another? Will special provisions be necessary to ensure student safety (see below)? Will students conduct classroom activities afterward to reinforce NCLI Day lessons? (See Following Up in the Classroom.) Assign roles and responsibilities to your partners, and draw up a schedule to keep preparations on track.
Make sure that these and any other necessary safety guidelines are provided to and followed by students:
- Wear sunscreen outdoors.
- Protect your eyes with dark glasses on sunny days.
- Always wear appropriate footwear and clothing — no flip-flops!
- Take along a first aid kit.
- Pay attention to “No Trespassing” or other warning signs.
- Only use alcohol thermometers, never mercury!
- Stay in a safe place if making outdoor observations.
- Treat living things with care. Some may bite, sting, or be poisonous!
- Take water along, so that you don’t become dehydrated.
- Be aware of the weather forecast and any flash flood warnings.
- Have a cell phone and emergency numbers handy.
- Make sure you check yourself for ticks or other pests.
- Be aware of any student allergies, such as a bee venom allergy.
- Avoid areas with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac.