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WV Outdoor Learning Center takes outdoors inside: Livestream video replaces field trips

Kelly Samia, of the West Valley Outdoor Learning Center, displays Stan, a Harris’s hawk on Nov. 8, 2018. The center will live-stream video every Friday starting April 3, 2020, about the critters living there.. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Kelly Samia, of the West Valley Outdoor Learning Center, displays Stan, a Harris’s hawk on Nov. 8, 2018. The center will live-stream video every Friday starting April 3, 2020, about the critters living there.. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The West Valley Outdoor Learning Center will start offering weekly live streams featuring its birds of prey and other animals Friday in a bid to keep children in the region educated and entertained.

The center usually hosts field trips and classes of students who stop by to learn about the animals, but it is shut down along with the schools.

“We miss the kids,” director Jami Ostby-Marsh said. “I was trying to figure out what I could do for the district.”

A volunteer suggested doing something online, and Ostby-Marsh started searching online for information on how to do live streaming on Facebook. She said she’s used to teaching classes, but the idea of doing a live video is very different.

“I’m very nervous,” she said. “This is something completely new.”

She got the idea of live streaming from the feeds that are being broadcast online from the larger zoos across the country, which her children have been watching.

The live sessions will begin every Friday at 11 a.m. on the center’s Facebook page. The first session will focus on the center’s owls and other birds of prey and some of the birds will appear. Kids who are watching the live stream are encouraged to ask questions Ostby-Marsh will answer as she goes.

“We’ll do our best to respond instantly,” she said. “We just thought it would be fun.”

The other weekly sessions will feature the center’s other animals. There are a variety of reptiles, including snakes and iguanas. The center alsohas newts, chinchillas, a hedgehog, guinea pigs, a variety of fish, walking sticks (a type of insect) and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Six sessions are planned, and each live stream will be recorded so people who missed the broadcast can watch it later on the center’s You Tube channel and website at olc.wvsd.org.

Ostby-Marsh said she hopes the center’s fans, as well as new people, will be able to participate. “We have a pretty good following,” she said. “In our open houses, we have people come every single month just to see the critters.”

Right now a skeleton crew of staff and volunteers is going to the center every day to feed and care for the animals. “We’re just lucky to have people who are committed to it,” she said. “This has definitely created a new, interesting predicament.”

Though all the animals are there, Ostby-Marsh said the center is too quiet without a steady stream of students coming in the door. “It will give us something to do,” she said of the live stream. “This is so hard.”

The center is also doing craft projects in prerecorded videos that will also be posted online. The videos will include a list of needed materials so kids at home can follow along and make their own. The first project will be a paper bag owl.

Most of the time it will be just Ostby-Marsh in front of the camera. Her son will run the camera and her daughter will read off the questions as they come in. “We’re keeping the social distancing in the family that way,” she said.

Ostby-Marsh said she hopes the live streams and videos will be helpful for children and adults alike. “We have a pretty good following,” she said. “It’s a way for us to continue to interact.”

She said it’s a way for her to help the community that has helped the center. Last month there was a roller-skate fundraiser in the hopes of raising $2,500 to pay for improvements to the building that houses the hawks and owls. About 100 people showed up to skate, but others showed up just to drop off donation checks, Ostby-Marsh said. They raised about $7,000.

“Everything has been going really well, and then this happened,” she said.

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