Although Dunes Learning Center has suspended its in-person education programs, it continues its mission through a variety of online content during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dunes Learning Center launched its Distance Learning Collection to keep children educated and curious about the natural world from their homes and backyards. The collection is home to videos and activities covering topics such as birdwatching, tips for hiking, nature journaling and more.
“In this unprecedented time, the education team is supporting teachers, students and families with the new Distance Learning Collection,” said executive director Geof Benson. “Until it’s safe to reopen campus, we’re fulfilling our mission of inspiring curiosity about nature online and on social media.”
Every Monday interpretive naturalist Nate Bibat, better known as “Neature Nate” in his activity series “Nature in Your Neighborhood,” ventures out into his own backyard and explores the unique plant and animal life that live there. Through short videos and activity suggestions, kids can follow along in their own yards or neighborhood parks.
“You'd be surprised to see how much nature is truly a part of your neighborhood when you take the time to do so,” said Bibat. “The hustle and bustle of our everyday lives can prevent us from slowing down and witnessing the same authentic outdoor experiences people look to find at a state or national park when really, you can find it right outside your door.”
Every Tuesday chief naturalist Anthony Escobedo tracks the never-before-seen “Sandsquatch” creature, looking for the footprints, scat and clues it leaves behind in his documentary-style video series, “The Search for Sandsquatch.”
“We wanted to create a series that is entertaining and makes kids feel like they are exploring Dunes Learning Center,” said Escobedo. “We want nature to continue playing a central role for our students, even with everything going on.”
Every Wednesday Dunes Learning Center posts a zoomed-in photo of something from nature taken under one of their ProScopes and challenges viewers to figure out what it is.
Naturalist Kayla Groen takes a creative approach to environmental education every Thursday in her activity series “Artisan Nature.” Each week Groen highlights a new activity involving art, such as a color-by-number cardinal picture.
“It’s science you can do. Nature journaling allows you to slow down and be more attentive to what’s happening in front of you,” said Groen. “Science was always intimidating for me growing up because I thought it was just about trying to remember facts and numbers, but science is way more than that. It is about experiences and discovering how different things work. It can even be artistic!”
The distance learning content will be posted weekly on Dunes Learning Center’s webpage (DunesLearningCenter.org) and Facebook page (Facebook.com/duneslearningcenter).
Dunes Learning Center is a non-profit residential environmental education center and camp devoted to inspiring lasting curiosity and stewardship with nature, even in isolation.