Like so many parents and teachers, the staff at your local Free Library of Philadelphia location have had to make monumental adjustments to how we do business, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and the stay-at-home orders. As much of what we usually do relies on face-to-face interactions and being physically present in our buildings, library staff has been working to translate some of our services to the virtual realm, and maintain the vital connections to our communities, until the present health crisis has passed. While we can’t do everything online, staff continues to add virtual programming to our online portfolio, share helpful links, information, recommendations, and much more each and every day, often by way of the library’s various social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).
See what your neighborhood library is offering via their Facebook page, or browse through thelibrary’s virtual programming page. Here, you’ll find many online story times for younger children, crafting and science activities for school-aged kids, gaming sessions, and a virtual teen writers club with daily prompt videos, among other activities. While some of these programs must be tuned in live, others will be recorded and can be watched at your convenience. One terrific example of that is the Culinary Literacy Center’s series of cooking videos – many for recipes that feature kitchen staples or are centered on ingredients picked up at the city’s food distribution sites.
Additionally, the Free Library’s blog is continually updated with new posts that will help you find resources, learn about local history, discover new entertainment and much, much more! Our collection of ebooks and other digital media can be browsed 24-7 and can be read or watched on most computers, tablets, or smartphones with your library card and PIN. And once you’ve read something, be sure to log and review it in the Spring Reading Challenge, where you can also earn badges for completing different learning activities.
Beyond the Library
The Free Library is not the only Philadelphia organization who has pivoted to virtual experiences this spring. As a world class (and World Heritage) city, we are home to a number of fantastic museums and cultural institutions, many of whom are offering a range of online options to the public. Looking for a little hands-on science fun? On Franklin@Home, the Franklin Institute is sharing videos, experiments, exhibition tours, quizzes, and much more! Of special note for families is Science Recipes, where they are posting three new projects or activities a week, all of which can be done with everyday household objects. Likewise, their Jurassic neighbors at the Academy of Natural Sciences are offering a Science from Home site, regularly adding informative posts, suggested activities, coloring pages, and more.
While we can’t visit the Philadelphia Zoo at the moment, we can still say hello to some of our animal friends, as we are introduced to lots of different species through the Philadelphia Zoo’s Facebook feature PhillyZoo@2. In addition, the Zoo shares a range of online activities and offers their animal expertise to the public via email on Philly Zoo to You webpage.
Curious about the Delaware River and the important role it plays in our life – as well as the lives within it? Check out these offerings from the Independence Seaport Museum. Or, learn to write your name in hieroglyphs and cuneiform, and dig into other anthropology activities with a stop at Penn Museum at Home. More recent history – relatively speaking! – can be explored with the Museum of the American Revolution’s digital resources.
To do a little art exploration, Mural Arts will be sharing tutorials from local artists on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, featuring a range of different skills. More focused are those from the Clay Studio and the Fabric Workshop and Museum, with videos and tutorials focused on pottery and printmaking respectively. In terms of performance, the Kimmel Center offers The Show Must Go On, with details on how each of their resident groups – such as the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Ballet – are sharing their performances, via videos, playlists, and broadcasts.
Of course, one of the advantages of online exploration is that you aren’t limited by geography. Is there a place you’ve always wanted to visit but never made it to? Google Arts and Culture makes it easy to do little virtual traveling and you can even go back in time! You aren’t even limited to the planet with the NASA Kids Club, while the activities offered by the Jet Propulsion Lab have a greater age range and can be sorted by subject, topic, and grade level. The Dyson Foundation has some great science and engineering challenges, while the Smithsonian Learning Lab offers a little bit of everything, a bit like the museums themselves.
Need some drawing lessons? Why not get them from kid favorite Dav Pilkey? Need writing tips or prompts? Popular award winning creators Jason Reynolds and Kate DiCamillo have got you covered! And once your child is confident in their skills, they could write a review to Philly Tweens or submit something to one of the many other places that publish writing and art from children and teens.
You’ve Got This!
We are all dealing with an unanticipated and unprecedented situation. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Hopefully, these resources will help make things just a little bit easier and more manageable.