Kids & Family

Learning During A Pandemic

Pittsburgh group comes up with a creative way to let learning and social distancing co-exist.

If you're a parent, you're probably scratching your head right about now. It's back-to-school time. But what does "school" look like during a pandemic?

What can we do to make sure kids who can't go back to an in-person classroom every day keep on learning and loving it? And -- let's be honest -- how can we get them to burn off steam at the same time?

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy came up with a great idea to get kids excited about being outdoors and learning about science through nature during coronavirus restrictions and beyond.

They've launched a backpack lending program that allows families to "borrow" one of four themed backpacks that contain tools and other materials that let kids (and parents too!) discover and learn about their neighborhood habitats in a way that's pretty interesting.

The Conservancy's goal is to provide children with tools that let them discover nature in their own neighborhoods.Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

"Every day is different, so you never know what you're going to find in the woods or on a trail on a given day, plus it's a great way to enjoy a day off, whether it's sunny, cloudy or even a little bit rainy," said Camila Rivera-Tinsley, director of education for the Parks Conservancy.

The backpacks provide a range of different ways to discover what's going on in your neighborhood:

  • The Meadow Backpack lets kids learn about insects, spiders and butterflies, and includes a book about common meadow creatures
  • The Forest Backpack, features a 'Bird Identiflyer' for identifying and making bird calls
  • The Stream Backpack has tools like a sieve and aquaviewer, for discovering what lives in a family's local pond or creek
  • The Health Backpack has hiking poles, a hammock and a 'FitBit' to help visitors measure their workouts

The Stream Backpack lets you sift through the habitat in your pond or stream, and even look underwater!Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

The backpacks can be used in any neighborhood, including the urban park settings supported by the Conservancy. "Even though our parks are located in the heart of a major city, they provide lots of opportunity to discover the magic of nature," said Rivera-Tinsley.

There is a $10 fee to borrow a backpack, which supports maintenance of the materials. Click here to find out details.
How can you start something good?

Even if you don't have children who can take advantage of this program, you can still support the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy's efforts to make sure that urban Pittsburgh neighborhoods continue to have well-maintained parks and programs to help kids learn about science through nature.

Click here to donate to the organization, or click here to volunteer your sweat equity to maintain the parks.

The Conversation
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