Understanding the role we play in our planet while also recognizing that we are part of something much bigger than our own earthly orbit is an invaluable lesson for kids of all ages. With a dual focus on caring for our home turf and exploring the unknown, environmental awareness and space exploration meet in Alien Crash Site Investigation (Alien CSI).
Organic Connects, a nonprofit dedicated to engaging urban communities with nature and environmental programming to prepare our future green leaders of the world, brings their universal Alien CSI program to curious 3rd – 12th graders of all walks of life. In these hands-on learning modules, teams of students “stumble” on an alien crash site and must determine the who, what, where and why of the alien beings before warning the outside world.
“If you’ve ever watched a movie where the government discovers aliens and set up these tents and everyone is wearing biohazard suits and equipment, that’s Alien CSI,” says Organic Connects Program Director Jefferson Jones.
Suitable for teachers, homeschoolers, day camp leaders and parents to implement with school-age kids, Alien CSI provides a fully immersive learning experience for participants to develop teamwork and critical thinking skills within STEM disciplines. “Off-the-shelf” packages include all the materials and instructions to conduct at-home lessons in excavation, intergalactic biology, orienteering, electronics, decryption and rocket chemistry.
While this experiential learning does include a degree of structure, Alien CSI programming often evolves with the students’ own curiosity and creativity. Kids are encouraged to solve problems in unconventional ways through team-building and real-world scenarios, a lifelong skill required for any career path they may choose.
“We’re preparing youngsters to become responsible, tax-paying, environmentally-conscious, experientially-seasoned folks who will survive whether you drop them in a Himalayan desert, a corporate office suite, or in a classroom of sugar-amped kids,” Jones says.
Beyond at-home, “plug-n-play” module options, Alien CSI also hosts experiential programming for small groups in their favorite classroom setting – Mother Nature.
“You can think of the Great Outdoors as our current facility,” Jones says, “and it’s our inspiration for some of the ideas that we have for transforming conventional indoor spaces into more of a living STEM terrarium.”
Finding engaging, meaningful hands-on learning can be difficult in our current COVID era. Thankfully, Organic Connects has been nimble and able to accommodate programming needs of the community with its wide variety of outdoor offerings.
“Though we still wear masks, take temperatures, sanitize and the rest of it, you don’t really have to worry about whether the HVAC filters are working,” Jones explains. “Not to mention, there is plenty of space for physical distancing.”
Jones and his wife, Whitnye Long Jones, founder and executive director of Organic Connects, aim to make their extensive programming available to kids and families who can least afford it or who may not even know particular outdoor experiences exist. Alien CSI, along with outdoor recreation excursions, urban field trip experiences, and an environmental leadership development program for high schoolers, are among a diverse range of opportunities for youth to gain crucial exposure to our natural world.
“When it comes to the environment, Alien CSI and Organic Connects have three primary drives: environmental or outdoor career exposure, outdoor recreation, and environmental stewardship,” says Jones. “We want the kids to consider outdoor careers in their options while instilling in them during their formative years the importance of caring for the outdoors, which has huge ramifications on their lives and those of future generations.”