BEA AHBECK/NEWS-SENTINEL Park ranger Daniel Williford talks about Point Lobos and the species living there as a class of sixth grade students at Vinewood Elementary School in Lodi take a "virtual field trip" via a bigscreen and high-speed internet connection, throught through the state's PORTS program, at the school Tuesday morning, Jan. 24, 2-17. A park ranger took them on a tour of Point Lobos and answered questions.

Last week, Lodi students were expecting to be back in school this Monday, tackling their last quarter of work for the school year.

Now, all that’s up in the air, thanks to the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Park rangers, zoo and aquarium specialists and museum curators are coming to the rescue. Thanks to the magic of the internet, homebound students can now visit California state parks, along with zoos, museums, and other centers of learning around the United States.

Here are options for keeping kids in learning mode — and homebound parents, too — during the pandemic.

California State Parks opens its Ports program to all Californians

Since 2003, employees at California’s state parks have taken students around the state on virtual field trips to deserts, kelp forests off the coast, redwood forests, historic sites and more.

Now, the park system will be opening its Ports program to homes throughout the state. The first day of free distance education kicked off on Thursday, with one-hour visits to Point Lobos State Nature Reserve and Hearst Castle.

Next week’s trips including Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park, along with Point Lobos and Hearst Castle.

“Please note that due to ever changing circumstances related to COVID-19, specific webinar topics are subject to change at any moment,” California State Parks wrote on its website. “We will do our best to avoid cancelling any webinars, but are working within the limitations of park closures and shelter in place notifications throughout the state.”

The virtual field trips will be held during one-hour slots from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Each webinar is limited to the first 500 people to register, due to technological limitations. For more information, visit www.ports.parks.ca.gov.

If you’re ready to branch out beyond California’s collection of state parks (or aren’t quick enough to nab one of those virtual field trip slots), head over to the National Parks Service channel on YouTube — www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice. The channel is full of documentaries about dozens of the most beautiful and historic parks in the United States.

Several parks in the National Parks System, including Yellowstone, have virtual tours available on the NPS website at www.nps.gov.

Go on a virtual safari with the Cincinnati Zoo

Like most zoos around the U.S., the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is closed to the public. But the animal keepers are still on-site to care for the zoo’s residents, and they’re taking the chance to educate the public about each one.

Beginning at noon Pacific time, a zoo staff member will livestream one of the zoo’s animals, sharing information about their behavior, life cycle and habitat. Each stream will include an activity that watchers can try at home.

Livestreams will be held on the zoo’s Facebook page. View past Home Safari streams and activities at www.cincinnatizoo.org/home-safari-resources.

They’re not the only zoo sharing info about animal residents with locked-down families.

The San Diego Zoo has live cameras at several of its exhibits at animals.sandiego zoo.org/live-cams. The Monterey Bay Aquarium also has live cams, at www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams.

And the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has another form of entertainment — they’re taking their penguins exploring while the building is empty of visitors, and sharing video (along with spotlights on other aquarium denizens) at www.twitter.com/shedd_aquarium.

Don’t neglect the arts!

Mo Willems, the children’s author and illustrator best-known for “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” is offering “Lunch Doodles with Mo.” During each episode, he shares how to draw a character along with some basic art skills and a little about his artistic process.

Willems is releasing a short episode every day on the Kennedy Center’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/TheKennedyCenter.

Students can also take virtual tours of a number of world-class museums, featuring art from around the world and every era. Google Arts and Culture hosts virtual tours and galleries from more than 500 museums around the world, including the Museee d’Orsay in Paris, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Families can also explore archaeological treasures like the statues on Rapa Nui and historical sites like the Palace at Versailles or the Secret Annex where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis, learn about the history of sports, and virtually visit cultural sites around the world. Visit artsandculture.google.com.

For a closer look at one museum, the MetKids program lets students explore the New York museum using a map, a “time machine,” or just go straight to watching videos. Visit www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features/metkids.

Once you’ve seen the greats and built up your own art skills, check out our Community Art Challenge for a chance to share your talents with the Lodi community.

Visual arts are important, but students can learn about music, too, thanks to efforts by the Metropolitan Opera. Each night’s stream begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT, but remains available at www.metopera.org for 20 hours. This week’s performances included Bizet’s “Carmen,” Puccini’s “La Boheme,” Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”

The Berliner Philharmoniker is also offering access to archived performances. Go to www.digitalconcerthall.com/en and scroll down to find a voucher code. Redeem the voucher by March 31 for free access to all of the concerts and films on the site. You will need to register to access this.

Travel the world with Google Maps

Thanks to Google Street View, it’s easy to visit Stonehenge in England or the Roman Colosseum in Italy. Parents and kids can explore the history of each site, look for the artistic and architectural features, learn a few words of the language or even cook a meal from the culture to make the immersion experience complete.

Here are a few other places to try:

  • The White House in Washington, D.C.
  • Times Square in New York City.
  • The Pena National Palace in Sintra, Portugal.
  • The Pompeii Ruins in Italy.
  • The Forbidden City in Beijing, China.
  • The Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
  • The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France (before it was damaged in last year’s fire).
  • Uhuru Gardens Memorial Park in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Prambanan Temples in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
  • Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
  • The Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
  • Schönbrunn Palace in Austria.
  • Chichén Itzá in Mexico.
  • Nzulezu Stilt Village in Ghana.
  • Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Japan.
  • graffitimundo in Argentina.
  • Machu Picchu in Peru.

Those are just a few of the countless virtual destinations available on the Google tool.

You can also look for travel or nature shows on your favorite streaming service, such as “Rick Steves’ Europe” on Hulu or “Planet Earth” on DisneyPlus.

Lesson plans and other resources

If you’re a parent suddenly acting as a homeschool teacher, you may not know where to find worksheets and activities to help your students apply everything they’re learning.

Luckily, educational companies are stepping up:

  • Educational publisher Scholastic has launched a new, free Learn at Home website at classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html.
  • MysteryScience.com has collected a huge archive of lessons and activities, aimed mainly at kids from kindergarten through fifth grade. Lessons are aligned to school curriculum requirements.
  • ArtThink, run by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, features activities focused on history, social studies, art and language, all tied into modern art work. Visit www.sfmoma.org/educators/classroom.
  • Encantos Learning Hub offers geography and language classes designed with young children — especially the kindergarten set — in mind. Tiny Travelers teaches about the world, while Canticos helps parents of preschoolers teach their children in two languages. Visit www.encantosbrands.com/learning.
  • Khan Academy offers free online lessons for all ages, from basic skills for the preschool set to third grade math and SAT prep.
  • Duolingo offers language instruction for all ages. Language courses include Spanish, Mandarin, Navajo, Hawaiian, Vietnamese, German, Russian, Japanese — even Klingon. Lessons are interactive and give a good grounding in the basics, though advanced learners might want to find other options.
  • Coursera and edX offer college level courses — complete with video lessons and lectures and homework assignments — at the college level. However, some high schoolers might find the classes interesting and manageable, especially on topics they enjoy. Classes cover topics from programming with Python and Java to women in the Middle Ages to California ecosystems.

Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus