To meet the needs of families who are spending their days at home, the educators at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and children’s education manager Kelly Riley have worked together to present a bevy of online activities, programming and videos, which are coordinated along topics of nature ranging from the weather to birds and bees.
“We made effort to gather all these offerings at an easily accessed location on our website’s homepage,” said spokesperson Beth Monroe. “A number of the features that are now online were adapted from activities we have done on-site and in-person for visitors.”
“Now more than ever we need personal connection, which is what the Garden’s mission is all about,” said Kristin Thoroman, director of education. “The goal for our online programs is to spark curiosity and wonder about the natural world while bringing families together.”
Virtual Story TimesChildren’s educator Tarneshia Evans is presenting an online version of her widely popular Story Times. Reading with enthusiasm and engaging her young audiences with questions and points-to-ponder along the way, Evans explores a picture book for each theme, followed by a related craft that can be done at home.
Her investigation of the important role of bees centers on Shabazz Larkin’s “The Thing about Bees: A Love Letter” that highlights the process of pollination, which is vital for the plants providing our sustenance. Adding a winsome touch is a little bee hand-puppet that accompanies Evans as she turns the pages to new discoveries. As a related craft, Evans guides her viewers to create their own “bee pointer” at home.
Each Story Time video is accompanied by a list of books and websites for additional reading and exploration, related features that families could look for in their own yards and local parks, and suggestions for activities that can be done at home.
Programming and Videos from children’s educators
Educator Kelsey Deans hosts this series of online videos, offering a theme-related exploration of a garden feature and at-home activity. A program on the weather incorporates the creation of a windsock and rain gauge from simple household items. It serves as a perfect complement to the Story Time featuring “Singin’ in the Rain.” Related activities include fingerplay, songs and suggestions for sensations to look for when walking in the rain, as well as a printable page with “50 Ways to Play in the Rain.”
Another nature-exploration program features the ecosystem of a pond, with a “Pond-Dipping Guide” to reveal the creatures that make their home in that habitat. A program on “Bird-Watching with Kids” includes a bird hunt sheet and bird identification guide.
Gardening with KidsThe site includes guidance for parents on “Five Best Plants for Kids” and a note about “Creating a Family Garden,” with tips from digital content manager Jonah Holland on how common household items such a spoon can serve as gardening tools.
Virtual Field TripsThe excitement of the Garden’s Field Trips are now available in reverse—at home—as families can explore their own surroundings with the guidance of children’s programs developer Mitra Bryant. “Watershed Wonders” is one of what will be a series of educational packages designed for students in grades 3-7 with Virginia’s Standards of Learning Science objectives in mind. The Watershed Virtual Field Trip includes questions, vocabulary, guidelines for recording the results of exploration, and guidance for creating a model of a watershed, with links to suggestions from the Garden’s environmental and conservation partners.
Kid QuestsA long-standing favorite activity at the Garden, the Kid Quest scavenger hunts, are now available as PDFs that can be printed at home. Quests include searches related to butterflies, bees, trees, plant parts and water. Each quest is presented with fascinating photos and information about each topic.
“We know that parents have now become teachers, so these online experiences should be a jumping off point to get families outside where learning is naturally fun and engaging—whether it’s a backyard gardening session or a scavenger hunt through their neighborhood,” said Thoroman. “And time spend outdoors is therapeutic and restorative for all ages, so parents or grandparents benefit just as much as the children.”
“The Garden’s mission is to connect people through plants to improve communities. What we are trying to do with our children’s online activities is to expose children to nature and to develop a lifelong love of the natural world,” said Monroe. “My kids and I have been watching the birds a lot more, noticing nature more, and wanting to learn more about it. It’s something that families can do together and that brings them together.”
LewisGinter.org (Activities for Kids)
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