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Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter offers online programs for children and adults

Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter offers online nature-based education and activities through SOLACE, an acronym for Swaner Online Learning and Community Engagement.
Scott Iwasaki/Park Record

For information about the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter’s SOLACE program, visit swanerecocenter.org.

Although the Swaner EcoCenter and Preserve is closed until May 1 due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the nonprofit is offering some “SOLACE” to the community.

SOLACE, which is an acronym for Swaner Online Learning and Community Engagement, is a new program filled with activities, interactive webinars and other nature-themed resources for youth, adults and “anyone in between,” said Executive Director Nell Larson.

There is a five-week program for youth that the nonprofit rolls out each week by week.

“Each package for each week contains a variety of activities that include a challenge, a quiz, a recorded story time and three to five activities for the children to complete,” Larson said. “Many of these activities are for kids in first to fifth grades, and the kids can do these pretty independently.”

The curriculum, which was created by Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter Education Director Katherine Veeder and Education Coordinator Brianna Cencak, can be done by using things around the house, or everyday items that are found outdoors, according to Larson.

“You’re not going to have to find obscure ingredients or tools to do these things,” she said.

There are three accessible plans — “Sensational Spring,” “Home, Sweet Home” and “Pollinator Pals” — up on swanerecocenter.org, and a new one, “Spring Daze,” will be revealed in the coming days. The final week’s plan will be “Spouting Into Science.”

“Our educators encourage the kids to do these at their own pace,” Larson said. “They can choose to do one activity each week or take one on in one day.”

Kids who discover the curriculum in the fifth week can also do the activities backwards, she said.

“Each week’s activities are independent and don’t build on one another,” Larson said. “So if there is one theme they really love, they can spend more time on that.”

Pre-recorded story times are meant to enhance each project.

“Kids can link to these from the website, and they can watch Brianna read the week’s book on YouTube,” Larson said.

The SOLACE programming for adults provides a series of webinars, films and remote nature walks.

A webinar titled “Mapping Where We Agree and Disagree About Climate Change,” given by Dr. Peter D. Howe, assistant professor in Utah State University’s department of environment and society, is scheduled for 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, Larson said.

“He’s going to talk about people’s different perceptions of climate change, and what those look like in the different parts of the state and country,” she said.

The webinar, which requires advance registration, will be followed by a live question-and-answer period, according to Larson.

“If you register in advance and find you can’t tune into the lecture, you will be sent a link of the recording so you can watch it later,” she said. “It’s a benefit of web-based events.”

The following webinar, “Fireflies in Utah?” by Christy Bills, entomologist at the Natural History Museum of Utah, is scheduled for 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29.

“This one is a fan favorite, because the data and research on fireflies in the state is an emerging field right now,” Larson said. “We have an abundance of fireflies on the Swaner Preserve. You can see them as you walk the trails along the edge of the preserve in late June. Fireflies love wet meadows and wetlands, and we love to learn about the new research conducted by Christy and her team.”

Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter’s SOLACE program blossomed after local residents responded to community-needs assessment conducted by the nonprofit after announcing it would be closed through May 1, Larson said.

“Parents told us that their kids are asked to spend a lot of time on their computers, and they wanted activities that would enable them to get off the screens and do something more tactile that they could do independently,” she said. “Adults also told us that they wanted to continue learning and actively engage new topics with the natural world.

“We know that nature and wild places tend to provide solace for many of us, so we thought we could offer interaction with nature in a different way, via web-based activities,” Larson said.


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