By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

“Distance learning” has become familiar terminology in the COVID-19 era, and that’s no different for The Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo.

The outdoor nature reserve used to host on-site trail walks and other activities for the community and students, but those been canceled for the time being. For now, The Reserve has a Nature at Home program that includes suggestions on crafts and activities, movies and books.

The program also has wildflower identification information for people who want to take self-guided tours of Oak Canyon.

“It’s there to keep people connected to nature and the outdoors,” Education and Public Programs Manager Leeta Latham said.

The suggestions and activities can keep kids and adults occupied during a time when they might get restless indoors. The program links to NASA images of space and an evening sky map that identifies planets and major constellations. The Reserve has previously hosted astronomy nights, where families could check out the night sky.

Additionally, The Reserve is reaching out to the community through its social media pages. They’ve done fun interactive activities on live videos such as book readings and science experiments, Latham said.

Though the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted daily life and caused feelings of anxiety and frustration, Latham said the crisis has also been a learning curve that facilitated creative solutions.

“It’s nice to be thrown a challenge,” Latham said. “It’s been a big change for us, not only at The Reserve. Our whole field of education is finding new ways of reaching their audience.”

The Reserve has also been an educational resource for students and typically has summer camps. In-person activities will not happen for the foreseeable future, but The Reserve will have camp-at-home activities.

“It was a bit of a shock at first,” Latham said on activity slowing down at The Reserve. “We have visitors all the time that are like family.”

Not seeing visitors in person is tough, but The Reserve wants to make sure everyone, including staff, remains safe, Latham said.

The Reserve frequently teaches kids about how animals and plants adapt to changes in their environment, a lesson Latham said Reserve staff is now learning for themselves.

It is currently unknown when in-person activities will resume. Reserve staff will follow all protocols and resume activities when it’s safe to do so, Latham said.

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