BatesConnect: Linking Bates-created Resources with Local Educators

Looking for the positives of a pandemic can be a difficult task, but the recent introduction of BatesConnect is a clear gem. 

BatesConnect is an online platform created through a collaboration between the Harward Center for Community Partnerships, Assistant Professor of Biology Andrew Mountcastle, and Bates Information Technology staff. Its goal is to provide educational resources, created by Bates students in their courses, for K-12 teachers in both Lewiston and Auburn. 

Originally expected to run as a small pilot program this fall, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic provided students with the opportunity to begin work on virtual projects this spring in partnership with the Harward Center. 

Mountcastle’s background was the inspiration for BatesConnect. As a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard, he created an online platform that allowed graduate students and postdocs like himself to create resources for K-12 teachers in the greater Boston area. 

His program was a success, and once he learned about how entrenched community-engagement was at Bates, he hoped he could bring the program to the college. The Harward Center made his dream a reality.

We see this as a way for many of the amazing educational resources that Bates students create, often in partnership with a local school teacher and classroom, to live on past that semester and continue to serve other teachers and school kids in our community,” Mountcastle said. 

Many of the resources on the site will be geared towards virtual learning, including educational games, videos, and narrated PowerPoint presentations. When the BatesConnect website is fully accessible, it will allow teachers to search for resources by academic field, grade level or type. 

In her Introduction to Astronomy course last semester, Emily Bass ‘21 was tasked with creating a resource for BatesConnect for her final project. She decided that creating an interactive board game would be a fun way to keep students engaged as they made the difficult adjustment to returning to the classroom during the pandemic. 

Her board game, Sky Tour, is based on the fifth-grade Common Core standards for science and astronomy. She said that homeschooling was also on her mind when she created the resource. Her game has assisted parents, who have become educators for the first time, in teaching the material to their children. 

“Many of the highlights of my academic experience at Bates have involved the intersections of project-based learning and community-responsive learning, which is part of why I was so excited to work on a resource for BatesConnect,” Bass said. “The project not only helped me reflect upon what I learned throughout the semester myself but also forced me to consider the ways I could translate that learning to create something accessible and appealing for kids.”

Maya Vernick ‘23 and her partners, Ethan King ‘21 and Julia Slayne ‘22, also made a final project for BatesConnect in their conservation biology class last semester. Their project is similar to the classic TV game show Jeopardy, but with a twist. 

Called Deforestation Jeopardy, it has questions specifically about deforestation but scaled in such a way that middle schoolers will understand the information. The goal is for students to become informed about a vital environmental issue while having fun at the same time.

I think it’s great that Bates has a platform that is helping to provide resources and activities online for teachers in the Lewiston Public Schools, especially since it is probably difficult to currently be altering a lot of their activities to be COVID safe,” Vernick said. “Hopefully having some pre-made activities through BatesConnect can be helpful to them and make their jobs a bit easier.”

Deforestation Jeopardy and Sky Tour are just two of the resources that teachers will have at their disposal this school year on BatesConnect. Teachers are eager to get students settled, so they can start integrating BatesConnect resources into their classrooms. 

Nicole Goyette, a science teacher at Lewiston Middle School, is particularly excited to begin drawing teaching material from BatesConnect.

It gave us a new platform to use for our students,” Goyette said. “We are always looking for different ways to engage our students, and now that we are virtual with them three days a week, this provides us with appropriate and engaging videos to support our material.”

Timothy Smith, a sixth-grade teacher at McMahon Elementary School, was one of the educators asked to give feedback on the platform earlier this year. 

I think that it will be great for the students during these times. The resources will be able [to] go into deeper teaching and understanding that I would not have the time to do so in our shortened school days,” Smith said. 

Having welcomed Bates students into his classroom for 25 years, Smith is no stranger to working with the college. 

“Bates College has sent so many wonderful students to my classroom over the past 25 years,” he said. “Their presence in our school is instrumental to my students. My students can learn from and look up to these college students. Many ask to come back during a different semester which is great. They are always willing to help in any way. They do a fantastic job representing Bates College.”

Even for the most experienced teachers, this will be a year like no other, and Bates College and the Harward Center are here to help teachers keep their students engaged during these unprecedented times. 

The possibilities with BatesConnect has Darby Ray, the director of the Harward Center, very excited. “One of the bright spots for us at the Harward Center was the opportunity to do an early launch of BatesConnect,” Ray said. 

Potential BatesConnect projects are not just for online learning; in the future, the platform will allow teachers to request in-person visits from students to make presentations, perform skits, and conduct experiments in the classroom. 

However, implementing these ideas will have to wait for a post-COVID world. Right now, the focus is on getting digital resources posted on the BatesConnect website. 

More information about BatesConnect can be found here