Around the world, many groups and organizations have stepped up to make recreational and educational content available for free as households work together to stay home and flatten the curve. It is very exciting to see Shakespeare’s Globe Theater performances available online, or for Marvel Comics to offer free access to some of their most popular series. Several Library vendors have made their resources more widely available to our patrons, including new offerings from Tumblebooks and home access to Ancestry. All of this content can lead to one problem: how do you cut through the noise to find what will be of interest to you and your family?
TBPL wants to help. At www.tbpl.ca/online-activities, we have created a guide to free online activities that is meant to offer something for everyone. There are thirteen categories: colouring pages, comics, concerts, digital escape rooms, drawing and art, films and documentaries, magazines and ebooks, movement and physical activity, online performances, STEM for kids, story time, story time with authors, and finally all other activities. Other than the STEM for kids section, all are meant to offer something for everyone from kid to senior.
We decided that our guide would focus on ongoing activities and services rather than one-time-only special events. This means that instead of telling you about specific concerts, we will direct you to visit the National Arts Centre for their regularly updated schedule of Canadian musician concerts and we will share a link to archived past content whenever available.
It was also important to us that these links lead to free activities (with the caveat that some content requires watching ads before the media). The categories are regularly updated and expanded, so do check back regularly for updates. Special sections for seniors and parents are also on their way.
Story time and literacy programming is a core TBPL service, and alerting families to what is available online in this area was an important part of this project. Familiar characters can be soothing for children during this time of turmoil, so we have highlighted Pete the Cat Club, which has new activities every week day, Mo Willems of Elephant and Piggie offering drawing activities at noon, and (new!) from the author of the Magic Tree House series, kids can join the Magic Tree House Kids’ Adventure Club for tons of activities, missions, and more. You can access books in this series though TBPL’s CloudLibrary database – go to http://tpbl.ca/ebooks/ to get started. Locally, Anishnabek Nation Youth hosts a live story time with books by Indigenous authors every week day at 11am on their Facebook page.
Online performances is a very broad category. You’ll find everything from Broadway performances to Cirque du Soleil hits to a puppet show for LGBTQ+ families. Inspiring videos of traditional Indigenous dance performances can be viewed on the Quarantine Dance Specials 2020 Facebook page. Ballet, opera, parody musicals, and even Benedict Cumberbatch – the National Theatre is showing Frankenstein, starring “Sherlock” vs “Sherlock” (Cumberbatch from the BBC show and Jonny Lee Miller from CBS’ Elementary).
Finally, due to its focus in schools, we decided to include a section specific to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Here you can find information about webinars from scientists living and working at the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory, Space School from Discovery Education, and Online Ocean from Ocean Wise and the Vancouver Aquarium. Science-minded adults may also enjoy this section, or can check out the opportunity to become a Citizen Scientist for NASA under Other Activities (youth can also apply to track interstellar dust clouds or coral reefs through this website).
For links to all these activities and many more, go to www.tbpl.ca/online-activities/. We hope this new section on our website helps you meet some of your recreational, social, or educational needs during this difficult time. Don’t forget that although our buildings are closed, our staff is here to help.
Laura Prinselaar– www.tbpl.ca. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you.