Taking First Green Virtually to the Classroom

by David Phipps, GCSAA NW Region Representative

First Green field trips came to a screeching halt once this pandemic became a reality in February. I believe that after our field trip at the Golf Industry Show in Orlando, there were perhaps two, maybe three others that were held throughout the year.


With schools closing to in-person learning and going virtual, teachers were scrambling to set up their new classrooms. Our industry was also in scrambling mode. We were focusing on keeping our facilities open, how to manage our staff, and keep them safe, while in turn, keeping our facilities open for play. I look back on those months and realize how far we've come. We've adapted and have delivered one of the most successful golf seasons in recent years.

Technology has played a significant role in our operations, especially in how we are communicating. We have had access to video conferencing for a while, but we rarely used it until this year. In my world, video conferencing is now used over regular conference calls in most of my meetings. 

So, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this talk about video conferencing and how it relates to First Green.  What we have learned these past ten months, we can take this video technology to our learning labs and bring our lessons into the classroom virtually. As I investigate this, I realize that this is a relatively simple process. Since most schools have gone to a virtual platform, it would be so simple to insert a First Green learning lab into their curriculum. All we need to do is create the content, deliver it, and watch them learn.

This all came to my mind as I watched my chapters adapt their educational formats to meet their member’s needs. One chapter was the Western Washington GCSA. In December, they normally host their Washington Turf & Landscape Show. This is their big annual educational conference. When they realized that they needed to create a virtual show, they investigated some technology that could closely mirror the existing platform of the WTLS.

They settled on a virtual/on-demand format in which they utilized two separate technologies to create the event. To make it on-demand, they needed to have their presenters pre-record their sessions to then be inserted into a delivery platform that could also verify attendance to satisfy the Washington State Department of Ag. The platform in which they used to record the sessions is called Screencast-O-Matic. There's a free version, but for less than $50 a year, you can have all the bells and whistles. This software allows you to create a presentation and present it from your computer while capturing your screen.  A webcam records you while making the presentation. You can also play videos from your screen and narrate alongside. The free version allows you to make 15-minute presentations, which fit perfectly in line with a First Green learning lab!

Just assemble a presentation like you normally would, start the Screencast-O-Matic software, and record your presentation. Subjects can replicate any of the learning labs that are found on the First Green website. If you can produce videos, it will provide an even more dramatic presentation. 

It would be crazy to expect every superintendent to go out and start recording learning labs. I will admit, this is a stretch for me, but I'm game to give it a try or to at least work with superintendents to help them do it. Perhaps those who have already hosted a field trip and have an established relationship with a teacher will find this tempting. It’s as simple as connecting with your teacher and offering them a few virtual learning labs in which they can offer their classes virtually.