Monday, March 30, 2020

Do It At Home: Make a Hobby Horse

Posted By and on Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 11:37 AM

The finished hobby horse - ELISA JÄRNEFELT
  • Elisa Järnefelt
  • The finished hobby horse
If you're looking for a craft project that uses household objects, Kids Vermont contributor Elisa Järnefelt has a fun idea. Below, find her visual directions for how to make a hobby horse — a classic toy that kids have been using to gallop around their homes and yards for hundreds of years. All you'll need is a wooden dowel, an old sock, yarn, felt, buttons and some soft material for stuffing. Järnefelt sewed on the horse's button eyes and used a crochet hook to create the mane. However, she says, the eyes can be easily affixed using a hot glue gun. The process of attaching the mane can be simplified by using a needle to pull yarn through the sock (see third drawing). Happy crafting... and yee haw!
  • Elisa Järnefelt

  • Elisa Järnefelt
Directions for making attaching the yarn mane:
  • Elisa Järnefelt

Friday, March 27, 2020

Guest Post: In the Kitchen With a 3-Year-Old

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 9:21 AM

Pushing strawberries through a cheesecloth to make strawberry mousse - HEATHER MOORE
  • Heather Moore
  • Pushing strawberries through a cheesecloth to make strawberry mousse
 I hate playing. I try to pretend that I’m enjoying building the block tower or tracing hands, but I’ve never been great at hiding my boredom. I know that I make a pretty horrible playmate for my nearly 3-year-old.

My husband and I are dividing the days with our joyous, spunky Rosie so that we can continue our work without our usual full-time daycare. He has always taken the lionshare of caregiving and is a brilliant, kind and compassionate papa. While he teaches part-time, I now have swatches of one-on-one time with my daughter that I didn't have previously.

Rosie with ingredients for marinara sauce - HEATHER MOORE
  • Heather Moore
  • Rosie with ingredients for marinara sauce
The first few days of being at home, I did my best to be good at playing and to hide the fact that I felt like my brain was dripping out of my ears. And then I changed strategies and looked for activities that I wanted to do. I know, I am exposing my ineptitude as a mother — and I imagine most of you reading this are far better at coloring with your little ones and getting joy from their joy. You know, you’re good mothers, and many of you appear to me to be quite unaware of how selfless and lovely you are with your children. It is only when you meet me at a playgroup, still talking about spreadsheets, with my daughter in mismatched socks, that you catch the reflection of your skill in my lack of skill. You make the world go 'round.

In the past week Rosie and I have made bird feeders, planted a whole garden of vegetables and flowers in tiny windowsill containers, made sourdough starter, and baked popovers, strawberry mousse, slow simmering marinara and banana ice cream. I have a favorite cookbook: Monet’s Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet that my previous, fast-paced life did not accommodate. Part of the fun and challenge is getting Rosie to do most of the steps of each French recipe, while I Google terms that I have never heard before and add things like whole vanilla beans and a sieve to my shopping list. The kitchen gets destroyed each time and the outcomes are sometimes magnificent and sometimes completely inedible. It is pure joy, and something I will continue doing when COVID-19 has passed.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Guest Post: The Calming Effects of Waterfalls

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2020 at 2:19 PM

Sarah and Winter explore the woods - SEAN PRENTISS
  • Sean Prentiss
  • Sarah and Winter explore the woods
For those of us lucky enough to live near the woods or by a lake or creek, we can take our lives and move outside, even if only for a meal. But, of all the choices, a waterfall or cascade might be best because of the positive effects of the negative ions created from the cascade, something we all need right now.

My wife, Sarah, knows this, so today she says, “Let’s have a picnic at the waterfall.” Our daughter Winter screams with joy, so we’re going. Sarah cooks grilled cheese, as Winter climbs into her snow pants. I shut off the computer, leaving the next video meeting for after lunch. We put the leash on our dog Blue and hike.
Sean, Winter and dog Blue enjoy an outdoor lunch - SEAN PRENTISS
  • Sean Prentiss
  • Sean, Winter and dog Blue enjoy an outdoor lunch

Once sitting in the snow beside this unnamed creek, not another person within maybe a half-mile of us, Sarah pulls out still-hot grilled cheeses, pickles, hot tea and an apple for 3-year-old Winter from our backpack. Then we eat beside the waterfall we’ve named White Rock Cascade. Just 30 feet from the tumble and spray, our hearts slow for a moment, smiles arc our faces. Maybe it’s the peace and quiet. Maybe it the negative ions. Maybe it’s the power of spring’s sun on our skin. Maybe it’s the gurgling of this unnamed creek. Whatever it is, COVID-19 feels far away, as do these stay-at-home orders.

Here, it is peaceful and quiet. Here, Sarah and I talk about our family member just yesterday stricken with COVID-19. Here, we pray for his health while Winter throws snowballs into this creek, feeling almost like the girl she was just weeks ago, and Blue runs through the woods, chasing after squirrels and scraps of food.

Soon, we’ll walk home to computer screens and updates for stricken relatives. But for this moment, we are removed from everything but waterfall, creek and lunch.

If you want to find kids’ books about lakes and streams and waterfalls, check out this link.

If you want water-related activities, find ideas here.

If you want to teach your kids about the water cycle, click here for a fun website. To learn about watersheds through an interactive website, click on this link.

Here’s a free app for second to seventh graders about lake science. And here is a free game in which players learn about the human impact on estuaries for ages 8 and up.

Sean Prentiss is the author of Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, Crosscut: Poems and Environmental and Nature Writing: A Writer's Guide and Anthology. He is an associate professor of English at Norwich University and on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Find more at

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Do It At Home: Listen to Classic Audiobooks

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 10:30 AM

During this “Stay Home, Stay Safe” period, parents and caregivers shouldn’t forget to care for themselves, too. Replenishing your own reserves will make it easier to parent during this time of stress and uncertainty.

 When my daughters were little, I often relied on LibriVox during snowy, housebound days. Recorded by volunteers around the world, this free online collection contains more than 8,000 audiobooks of literature written before 1923 and, thus, in the copyright-free public domain. The website includes children’s books in genres ranging from “Action and Adventure” to “Historical.”

To give myself a break in those early years of parenting, I downloaded audiobooks for my daughters to listen to. To my surprise, I discovered that listening to the stories read aloud relaxed and recharged me, too.

Someday, your family might look back on the time and realize that The Boxcar Children or The Swiss Family Robinson carried you and your kids through these uncertain days.

A few classics to get you started:

Heidi by Johanna Spyri: This 1880 novel stars a spunky orphan girl who is sent to live in the Swiss Alps with her angry grandfather. The story includes tending goats, triumphing over adversity and toasted cheese sandwiches.

The Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter: These 19 classic tales feature the mischievous Peter Rabbit, and many more quirky animal characters. My younger daughter’s favorite was The Tale of Two Bad Mice.

The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit: Eight imaginative stories enchant listeners with magic and whimsy, including the tale of a dragon who comforts a fussy baby.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Unhappy and orphaned Mary Lennox is sent to live with an unknown uncle in an isolated manor house and soon discovers she is surrounded by mysteries. Sara Crewe, the plucky heroine of Burnett’s A Little Princess, is lesser-known but also inspiring.

Find a Wired magazine article that chronicles LibriVox's unusual story here.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Do It At Home: Make and Learn About Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 1:09 PM

Mira and Theo with the fruits of their labor - ALISON NOVAK
  • Alison Novak
  • Mira and Theo with the fruits of their labor
Everyday, my family and I have been trying to do small things that bring us comfort, amidst the stressful and uncertain environment we find ourselves in. Long walks in the woods are one way that we're finding temporary relaxation. Baking is another.

My 12-year-old daughter, Mira, has always loved to experiment in the kitchen, but the frequency of her culinary exploration has increased in the past week or so. She's also graciously welcomed the help of her 10-year-old brother, Theo. These team baking projects provide some time for my husband and I to get work done (and, hey, measuring ingredients counts as a math lesson, right?).

Chocolate chip cookies are one of those classic comfort foods, especially when eaten warm, right out of the oven. Some of our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes are this one, with lots and lots of butter, from Savannah, Georgia-based Back in the Day Bakery and this one (secret ingredient: shredded coconut), which comes from the wonderful graphic memoir, Relish by Center for Cartoon Studies graduate Lucy Knisley. Knisley also penned Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos, a graphic memoir about her pregnancy, which we wrote about last year.  If your local bookstore or library is doing curbside pickup, I highly recommend both of these books.

If you're looking for resources to extend your kid's learning, Mira and I found these videos and articles interesting:

  • Watch: A TED-Ed video about the chemistry of cookie baking

  • Read: An interview with test kitchen baker Jocelyn of Norwich-based King Arthur Flour about how different ingredients and bake time affect your finished chocolate chip cookie.

  • Read and discuss together: An article from the New Yorker about the history of the chocolate chip cookie. "In a single inexpensive hand-held serving, it contained the very richness and comfort that millions of people were forced to live without in the late nineteen-thirties," the piece states. "Ingesting a warm chocolate-chip cookie offered the eaters a brief respite from their quotidian woe." Sounds like advice worth heeding in our current turbulent times.

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Learning in the Time of Coronavirus: Resources for Older Kids & Teens

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 2:09 PM

Vermont author Ann Braden hosts a three-part creative writing video series
  • Vermont author Ann Braden hosts a three-part creative writing video series

This spring, learning will look different for Vermont students. Fortunately, innovative local educators have been quick to respond to the current situation, posting online activities to keep our adolescents learning — and engaged with each other — while at home. Below, find a selection educational resources for older kids and teens.

• Inquisitive teens can sign up for the University of Vermont Extension’s virtual science cafés, where scientists share their work, followed by an informal discussion. On Wednesday, April 8 from 3-4 p.m., maple specialist Mark Isselhardt shares his research.

• UVM Extension has also started Distance Learning Socials for ages 8 and up. Tune in on Mondays at 3 p.m. to learn about topics related to science, healthy living and civic engagement, with fun do-at-home challenges. Return on Thursdays at 3 p.m. for a follow-up group share.

• In addition to accepting creative work online, the Young Writers Project has launched virtual workshops. Aspiring writers might remember Toni Morrison’s advice: “We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” The April issue of the Young Writers Project's literary journal, The Voice, is all about coronavirus.

The Poartry Project will host a Voicing Art poetry reading event on Saturday, April 18, 2-3 p.m. Submit creative work with themes of “connection” and “independent interdependence” by April 17, then join the Zoom presentation.

• Audubon Vermont created a free online educational resource: Get Outside and Learn. These nature-focused lessons are suitable for younger and older students, and include a virtual sugar-on-snow party and an early spring scavenger hunt.

• Middle school teacher Ann Braden invites virtual students of all ages into her online thee-part series, “What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write (And You Don’t Think You’re a Writer.” Kids VT interviewed Braden about her debut novel, The Benefits of Being an Octopus, in 2018.

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Learning in the Time of Coronavirus: Vermont Libraries Offer Digital Programming

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 11:02 AM

Miss Diane from Jeudevine Memorial Library in Hardwick
  • Miss Diane from Jeudevine Memorial Library in Hardwick

Vermont libraries have closed their doors to slow coronavirus, but librarians are still serving the public. Many libraries are offering online programming, from story times for preschoolers to educational resources for older students. Since these options are free and available to everyone, check out different libraries to see what works best for your family.

• Brownell Library in Essex Junction has rolled out a number of virtual programming options, including story times every Wednesday at 10 a.m., read-alouds of classic children’s literature on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. and a teen writers club on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. To access, click on the event on the library's online calendar and follow the directions.

• In Hardwick, Jeudevine Memorial Library’s youth librarian, Diane Grenkow is hosting story times from her front porch on Facebook. The library's website is showing online drawing lessons from local resident Jason Clarke.

• Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library airs Rhyme Time! with Miss Tricia on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:30 a.m on Facebook.

• Westford Public Library’s director Bree Drapa made her YouTube story time debut.

• Find South Burlington Public Library's Storytime with Kelly here.

• Pierson Library in Shelburne shares Musical Story Times with Mary Catherine Jones Tuesday mornings via Zoom, at 10:30 a.m.

• Youth Services Librarian Miss Becky entertains little listeners with a mini story time from the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum every Friday at 10:30 a.m.

• The Fletcher Free Library in Burlington has links to online resources on its website. Register for the "1,000 Books Before Kindergarten" literacy program here. Check the library’s Facebook page for upcoming online programming.

• Aldrich Public Library in Barre is offering a virtual story time with children's librarian Ian Gauthier. Watch the St. Patrick's Day story time here.  New story times premiere on Tuesday mornings at 10:30 a.m. on the library's Facebook page.

• Winooski Memorial Library launched a Read Aloud series with Youth Services Coordinator Mr. Josh. Find it, and other educational resources, on the library's new remote resources page

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Coronavirus Advice from UVM Infectious Diseases Doctor Tim Lahey

Posted By on Sun, Mar 22, 2020 at 1:11 PM

The following Q & A is a summary of a Facebook Live video from Saturday, March 21 with Dr. Tim Lahey of University of Vermont Medical Center.

From his wife, Jessica Lahey — an educator, journalist and author of the parenting book Gift of Failure: "Earlier today, I somehow convinced Tim Lahey, my lovely husband who also happens to be an infectious diseases doctor and medical ethicist to go on Facebook and Instagram live to do a one-hour Q&A about all things COVID-19. Lots of people told us it was helpful and reassuring, so I thought I’d post the link to the video and Tim’s summary notes."

Who exactly is this Tim Lahey – should you trust what he says here?
Hi. I’m a practicing infectious diseases doctor and professor of medicine at the University of Vermont’s Larner School of Medicine and the University of Vermont Medical Center. For ten years, I worked as an NIH-funded vaccine immunologist and epidemiologist and now I direct the ethics program at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Here’s a link if you want more info, including links to my stories for the New York Times and beyond.

Let’s do this.

Is this all just “the media” overreacting?
Nope. This is for real. The media are out there doing incredible work, getting the word out about important news every day. Don’t believe propagandists who would have you think otherwise.

Thousands of deaths, with COVID-19 death rates rising in multiple cities simultaneously is a big deal. People who say otherwise are self-comforting in understandable but ultimately counterproductive ways.

At the same time this is scary, we are also seeing a global mobilization of incredible resources and ingenuity and technology. Health care is changing at breakneck speed. Inspiring acts of heroism, innovation and just plain old hard work are saving lives. We will get through this, and we will feel proud of how we stood up to the greatest threat to civilization in more than a hundred years.

Thinking about all of the political polarization that has beset our country for the past few years, this has been a great way for us to circle the wagons, get over our differences, and engage the call to action. We will prevail.

Does it really make sense for the world to go on the longest staycation in history?
It does. Here’s why:

We expect most of us will get infected, eventually, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Most of us will be fine. BUT, 20% get really sick and need hospitalization. That’s a lot of people needing hospitalization, and if they all show up at once, our hospitals can’t handle it.

Flattening the curve means slowing down spread of the epidemic, so that sick people get sick over a long period of time, and show up less in hospitals, which in turn get less overwhelmed, and save more lives.

Put another way, staying home, and slowing the spread of COVID-19, saves lives.

How long is The Global Staycation going to last?
At least two months, according to the epidemic curve in China. We’ll see though – it’s early days.

Are there additional ways I can protect myself?
Beyond staying home — “physical distancing” — you can wash your hands. Especially before you eat or after touching potentially contaminated (e.g. public, high use) surfaces that could be contaminated.

Should I irradiate food from the grocery store and then do a rain dance before eating it?


You should wash your food from the store. And wash your hands before preparing it. Food is just as easily contaminated as other stuff, so reasonable to take precautions — but no reason to go overboard.

Importantly, people who get COVID-19, as far as we know, get it via being around other people or touching stuff (then touching their faces). The early epidemic data doesn’t suggest food is a big part of transmission.

Should I worry about boxes?
Not particularly. It’s a publicly-touched surface so wash your hands between touching it and eating or touching your face. Don’t touch your face any more than you can avoid it (and hopefully less than I did during this FB/IG live.)

Are there ways to “boost my immunity” like with vitamins or some drug I heard about on the internet?
There’s no such thing as “boosting” your immunity. If somebody tells you they know how, either from COVID-19 or basically anything (other than like treating HIV or other medical causes of immunodeficiency), keep your hand on your wallet and look for the door.

What should you do? Sleep well. Eat well. Meditate slash chill out. The rest is malarkey.

I heard hydroxychloroquine is a wonder drug – like from imminent scientists and physicians Elon Musk and the President of the United States. Should I get on that magic stuff and maybe (especially if I’m a senator) buy some stock too?
The hype about hydroxychloroquine is unfortunate. It’s unproven, and the study driving people’s enthusiasm is deeply flawed. (It’s small, not randomized, not placebo-controlled, and they cherrypicked the data in a way that is sure to introduce bias. Epidemiologists think it’s the weakest of sauce.) Much as I respect Elon Musk’s work with electric cars, he should stay in his lane.

Don’t believe the hype.

Would I give it a go in a desperately ill patient after clarifying it’s experimental? Probably. But not in any other circumstance and even then with ambivalence.

We’ll see what the real science brings. Until then — don’t believe the hype. Don’t. Don’t believe the hype.

Should you gargle salt water or something else? Booze maybe?
No evidence suggests those things help you against COVID-19.

Should I go out and buy a surgical mask or even the special mask called an “N95”?
No, absolutely, totally do NOT do this.

Healthcare workers need these for seeing patient after patient after patient. And they’re running out. In part because other people, who don’t need them, are buying them. So don’t.

Plus, wearing a face mask all day — I can tell you from experience — will tempt you to touch your face even more, which brings COVID-19 to your face, which can risk infection.

So, no. Just don’t.

What about cloth masks?
We don’t know if those offer the same protection as real masks which have fewer, smaller holes in them. See above about touching your face. This at least isn’t depleting the stores health care workers need.

Do I need a 5-gallon drum of Purell?

Save it for patients and health care workers who really need it.
Soap and water is just as good, and not in short supply in the damn hospitals.

How much of a hermit do I – and my kids! – need to be? (PS they’re driving me crazy!)
You should physically distance yourself from other people. But if you have to go to the grocery store, go. Avoid crowds. Go outside where it’s well-ventilated. Avoid restaurants. Bars. Playdates. Airplanes. Trains. Beaches. Sporting events. Crowds people! Takeout isn’t as bad as restaurants, but it still links you to another social network so has risk. So, reduce the risk as much as you can knowing your safety and in particular the safety of the medically vulnerable loved ones and neighbors depends on it. (See above about The Staycation that Saves Lives.)

What if I’m higher risk, or someone I love is?
Take extra precautions. More handwashing. More physical distancing. Fewer crowds. Avoid sick people. Ask your (their) doctor if it’s safe and tolerable to lower the dose of immunosuppressive drugs.

What’s the deal with smoking? What about vaping?
Neither was good for you before COVID-19. Nobody knows if they make COVID-19 risk or disease worse, but there are some hints in the epidemiological and scientific data they might. So, try not to suck nasty things into your lungs.

Why don’t I need a COVID-19 test? Isn’t the PROBLEM that too few people are being tested?
The messaging about testing has been confusing. First we need them. Then you don’t. Here’s a clarification.

We need the test to decide whether the sick people who need hospitalization need special infection control precautions. Masks, gowns, gloves, face shields.

By contrast, people who are asymptomatic (don’t get me started on asymptomatic rich basketball players and citizens) or mildly ill (i.e. they can breathe) just don’t need the test. Whatever the result, the advice will be to stay home. Sleep. Eat. Avoid others. Wait.
Also, getting tested worsens the national shortage in testing supplies. Which we need for sick people.

Plus, testing people exposes health care workers, whom we need to save those lives, to COVID-19 so they’re more likely to get sick themselves. So: unless you need to be hospitalized or are otherwise super high risk, you don’t need that test.

What are the symptoms and natural history of COVID-19?
Symptoms arise 5 days on average after exposure.
About 15% of people have no symptoms. For those who are symptomatic, COVID-19 presents like a cold or the flu. We can’t tell from symptoms which infection is. Symptoms include cough, fever, muscle aches, maybe sore throat or the sniffles. Gastrointestinal symptoms occur in some people. If the illness is more severe, shortness of breath can become pronounced. For more info, here’s the CDC’s website on COVID-19 symptoms.

Eighty percent of people have a mild illness. Most of the remainder need oxygen in the hospital, but around a fourth of them need ICU admission and even mechanical ventilation. Mortality rates have been estimated at 3% although we’ll see what the final number is once we have the full data.

It appears folks experience difficulty breathing 3-5 days into the illness, if that happens, and the full illness lasts approximately 1-2 weeks. People with the illness (or high risk of exposure) should stay quarantined for 2 weeks after they’re better although we don’t really know what the right length of time is.

What information should you trust about COVID-19?
I trust the CDC, the World Health Organization, the New York Times, the Washington Post and my local public health department.

Follow Tim Lahey @TimLaheyMD

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Save Salamanders While Social Distancing

Posted By on Sat, Mar 21, 2020 at 9:05 AM

  • North Branch Nature Center
On these wet spring nights, amphibians seek vernal pools to mate and lay eggs. But crossing roads is a dangerous business for hopping frogs and slithering salamanders. Volunteer “crossing guards” often spend evenings helping migrating critters to safety. Luckily for at-home families, saving our water-loving wildlife is a perfect social distancing activity. As an added bonus, it’s fun and educational.

Some families may simply want to explore on a spring night. For those families who want to collect and submit data about Vermont’s wildlife, as well, the North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier has detailed information about how to get started.

Its website includes:
• A local map of amphibian crossing areas
• A volunteer manual
• Videos
• How to gather and submit data
• How to send in photos

Gear you need:
• Rain clothes and boots
• Reflective clothes, such as a vest
• Flashlights and extra batteries
• A spatula and a clean bucket
• Waterproof clipboard, data sheet and pencil
• Camera
• Crossing signs with flashing lights

In 2018, Kids Vermont wrote about Middlesex writer and educator Katy Farber’s picture book, Salamander Spring. It combines science, simple directions and a sweet story about a mother and daughter who help spotted salamanders cross a dirt road. If your local bookstore is open, see if they have a copy.

Last spring, Heather Fitzgerald wrote an essay for Kids Vermont about“a particularly ungraceful April night” when she and her 5-year-old son went searching for frogs and salamanders. As parents in a rapidly changing world, we’re all redefining our roles right now. Fitzgerald’s story reminds us to embrace our kids' imagination — and let go of our desires for perfection.

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Learning in the Time of Coronavirus: Virtual Tours and Animal Webcams

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 11:06 AM

Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium - DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime
  • Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
In our digital world, visiting a museum, zoo or aquarium is just a click away. Check out these sites offering virtual tours and animal webcams.

  • Watch a video about Impressionist artist Claude Monet's garden here.

  • Virtually visit the Gervais Family Farm in Enosburg Falls to learn how farmers take care of their cows here.

  • The National Aquarium in Baltimore offers live streams of its Blacktip Reefs, Jellies Invasion and Pacific Coral Reef on its website.

  • At the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, biologists are taking lessons online. They host a daily virtual classroom on Facebook Live at 11 a.m. Metroparks naturalists go live at 1 p.m.

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Due to COVID-19, camp schedules listed here may not be accurate. Please check with individual camps for the most up-to-date information.

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Art Camp is perfect for art-starved kids! Art Camp provides children a week of hands on art making in Carol MacDonald's artist studio. By learning essential processes, children get more and more proficient in these mediums and bring new ideas to their art. We work in Drawing, Painting, Artist Book…(more)

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