Spring has finally sprung, and Alley Pond Environmental Center is providing virtual programming to viewers across all ages so they can enjoy the season from inside the comfort of their own homes.
“Now is a time when fresh air and developing a respect for nature are more important than ever,” Bonnie Bromberg, APEC’s early childhood coordinator, said in an email to the Chronicle. “Although everyone is mindful of social distancing and wearing masks in public spaces, nature is still an accessible safe place. At the end of each Sunny Bunnies Story Time, we encourage children to go on a nature walk, whether it’s walking around the neighborhood, visiting a local park, looking in their backyard or just standing on their step looking around at the sky and the plants right outside their doorway.”
Sunny Bunnies Story Time is a child- and family-based virtual program available for free through APEC’s website, alleypond.org, as well as its various social media sites. The weekly collections of brief educational videos are geared toward toddlers and preschoolers to promote literacy and features Bromberg and colleague Brenda Detweiler reading aloud children’s storybooks. Each episode includes A Letter of the Day to encourage alphabet recognition, as well as children’s songs, a discussion of natural items like animal nests or shells and live animal guests.
“Many parents are concerned, with good reason, about excessive amounts of screen time that children are binging on each day,” said Bromberg. “[We] keep each Sunny Bunnies Story Time to less than 10 minutes, so we don’t add to the burden of excessive screen time.”
Zach’s Wild World, a twice-weekly program, focuses on science education on various topics, such as mammals, reptiles, trees and more. Upper Grade Coordinator Zachary Kaplan releases an interpretive science lesson each Monday through PowerPoint, which includes the popular segment “Gross Fact of the Day.” On Thursdays, the program takes viewers on a nature walk that makes real-life connections to lessons discussed in Monday’s episode.
Additionally, a collection of nature crafts and activities are available on the center’s homepage along with instructions on how to make items such as “Maple Seed Dragonflies,” “Acorn Necklaces” and “Frog Life Cycle Story Stones.”
“The nature crafts and science activities posted on the APEC website are also intended to help children make further connections with the outdoors,” said Bromberg.
In addition to its programming, APEC is hosting a “Focus of Nature Photo Contest” for children ages 12 and under. With the goal of inspiring children to go outside and explore nature found in their backyard, garden or local park, the digital photo contest will run until May 31.
Although much of its programming is curated for young viewers, APEC has devised virtual workshops and classes for adults seeking to grow in educational and physical areas as well.
“Everyone is experiencing different levels of stress these days,” Bromberg said, adding that APEC’s Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga, offered Fridays in May from 4:30 to 5:40 p.m., aims to help promote self-care and provide an outlet for relaxation. Christina Rossi, a certified instructor, leads the class with poses that are modified in order to be attainable while providing the same benefits as traditional yoga positions.
“As we all spend more time at home, we are all cooking more,” Bromberg continued. “Now is the perfect time to develop new culinary skills and try cooking new ethnic foods.”
The Chef Mom Irie-Experience, led by Nicola Campbell on May 22 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., will focus on Jamaican-style summer grilling, and promises to include jamming to irie reggae tunes, while Cooking in Quarantine by Chef Biny on May 24 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. will educate viewers on how to make their own vegetarian Bangladeshi comfort foods.
While children’s programs are being offered for free, the live classes for adults are $10, the funds of which will go toward caring for APEC’s Animal Ambassadors. The center also welcomes donations to help “keep the lights on.”