Photo by Eric Goodell: To reach and educate children during the COVID-19 pandemic, staff at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park restructured its programming to bring the wildlife sanctuary into people's homes virtually.
Photo by Eric Goodell: To reach and educate children during the COVID-19 pandemic, staff at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park restructured its programming to bring the wildlife sanctuary into people's homes virtually.

Educating children in an entertaining way from a distance during COVID-19 was a difficult challenge, and wildlife organizations like Northwest Trek had to get creative in order to do that.

To meet that challenge, Northwest Trek's Education Curator Jessica Moore restructured and expanded the wildlife park's programming to bring the wildlife sanctuary into people's homes.

With her team of “Treksperts,” Moore developed virtual programming to reach a young audience when they couldn't meet in person.

“I wanted to find a way to reach them and teach at the same time,” Moore said. “I have a small studio with backgrounds and props for helping with education and offering a more hands-on scientific experience. I can show them the animals first hand, then go into further detail about their habitat, biology, or ecosystem and eating habits.”

Having the option of using a close-up camera can make the experience more personal, Moore said.

“If I’m doing a program about raptors, they get a chance to interact and see the animal up close with all the details they wouldn’t normally get to see,” she said.

Moore said the programs are fun and educational for the children, adding that seeing powerful talons or beaks of large birds of prey up close provide more detail, “and it's all custom and done live.”

With 12 programs, highlighting mammals to their habitats, just about everything in Northwest Trek is covered. Moore took it one step further, however, to offer catered programming for viewers.

“I do private parties or groups, classrooms. I even had a special birthday program for a girl whose parents had given it as a gift,” she said.

Moore works with everything at her disposal through activities and interaction to bring the experience to the next level. Children can also ask the host a question on the spot, through the computer. This kind of interaction has captured the attention and imagination of all the children given the chance to participate, Moore said.

“They love it,” she said with a grin.

The new age that is virtual programming may still be in its infancy, but Moore has developed programs designed to appeal across a broad spectrum of people.

“Our videos give an up-close and scientific look available for classrooms, earning scout badges, or you can have a Trekspert assign a unique program catered to you,” Moore said.

The virtual program streams are available at https://www.nwtrek.org/visit/field-trips/nature-at-home/wildlife-academy/. People can choose a group option or select an individual program to book. All wildlife academies are taught by professional Northwest Trek naturalists for children kindergarten through eighth grade.

“Online Wildlife Academy offers parents, educators and group leaders an easy way to connect kids with native Northwest wildlife,” Moore said.

For more information about Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, go to www.nwtrek.org.