If you’re not really comfortable going out for group activities just yet, you’re not alone.
JCPRD understands, and is planning a number of fall programs that people can participate in from the comfort and safety of their own homes. For the first time, the September through December My JCPRD Activities catalog
, due out this week (see related story), lists offerings for virtual programs.
Some of the virtual programs are free, while others have a modest charge. Virtual programs are offered in enrichment & special interests for youth, adult, and 50 plus; youth gymnastics; and adult heritage & history.
Representatives of these program areas recently took time to talk about their virtual programs.
Of course, safety in the time of COVID-19 was a primary motivating factor for initiating these programs.
“Many families have expressed a preference for limiting their time spent in indoor, public areas, so we saw the potential to adapt our gymnastics classes to fit those needs,” said Gymnastics Coordinator Kendra Martiny. “We spent several weeks redesigning our curricula and developing lessons that would be accessible and easily implemented for participants at home. We collaborated with outside experts who had been offering virtual classes for several years, and their insights and recommendations helped us decide on a class format we felt would work best for our staff, facility setup, and target audience.”
Finding ways to let people interact with others in this time of physical distancing and social isolation was another major motivating factor.
“Very early in our community’s ongoing response to COVID-19 we knew two things for sure,” said 50 Plus Specialist Libby Scarborough. “One, our desire to connect with our community was as strong, if not stronger, than it had ever been and two; we wanted to find a way to offer numerous opportunities for our patrons to experience meaningful educational and recreational opportunities from home. We know that our traditional offerings have always been an exceptional outlet for combating social isolation, so even as we found it necessary to be physically apart, it was imperative that we find ways to continue to create community and remain connected.”
As expected, much of JCPRD’s virtual programming has involved adapting existing programming to the new format, but staff are also looking to branch out an introduce new programming as well.
“Right now, our virtual programming is mainly transitioning existing or planned programming to a virtual format (Zoom),” added Johnson County Museum Curator of Interpretation Andrew R. Gustafson. “We have created some programs with the intent of being virtual, and we hope that as things progress, we might be able to manage virtual and in-person crowds. Patrons have mentioned that virtual programming adds a certain level of comfort being at home, but more than anything, they seem appreciative of the opportunity to connect and learn right now.”
“We have been able to adapt a lot of our programs to be held virtually but have run several brand new options as well,” Scarborough said. “We approach virtual programs in the same manner we’ve always approached our traditional offerings; we’re continually dreaming up new options to bring to our participants! So far we haven’t found the limit to what can be done virtually! From gardening, to bingo, to the history of JCPRD parks, our team is very, very creative and have offered some unique options. Some offerings take more brainstorming than others, but we’ve been able to bring some pretty unique options to our participants so far.”
“With a little adaptation and creativity, we think just about anything can be offered virtually,” Martiny added. “The virtual gymnastics classes we are offering have been carefully adapted to ensure they can be performed safely at home without the use of equipment. One doesn’t have to have all the apparatuses to learn gymnastics, they just have to be willing to work hard and try new things! For this reason, we are currently offering virtual classes for school-age participants across three different skill levels. Every other week features live, video instruction on Zoom, and our “off” weeks are supplemented with dance and conditioning exercises. During the weeks when classes are working on bars and vault, our virtual participants receive prerecorded videos outlining appropriate stationary drills, as well as strength and conditioning exercises, that specifically align with the bar and vault stations the rest of the class is practicing.”
The videos she mentioned are being produced in-house with the help of JCPRD’s digital media coordinator.
So far, public reaction to the virtual programs has been very positive.
“Parents love having the option to take classes online and they have been responsive to our efforts to continually make adjustments to ensure we are providing a high-quality product,” Martiny added. “The mom of one of the Kansas Kips competitive team participants told us ‘I cannot express how appreciative I am that you guys started live streaming practice. It brings me so much joy that I can sit at home and watch Zohey practice.’ We’ve also had families with younger children in the recreational program hop on the live stream to watch the competitive team girls complete their workouts in the mornings. Several parents have shared that their preschool age kiddos love watching the team girls do ‘cool tricks,’ and it has been inspiring their budding athletes to practice more at home.”
“One challenge to these classes has been working with participants who had never interacted virtually, and overcoming the unknowns associated with technology which seemed daunting to some,” added Scarborough. “As we first started offering virtual programs, we saw a handful of brave souls test the waters and join us, and much to our delight the response was overwhelmingly positive. It was clear from those very first programs that these offerings were filling a need for our patrons and that only spurred our desire to change, adapt, and offer more and more opportunities. Today, it’s not unusual to see upwards of 30 people attend an online session. We have a few individuals who we see in nearly every online program and we continue to gain new participants with each offering.”
All three departments hope to continue to grow and expand their virtual offerings.
“Moving forward, we would love to increase the number of virtual classes we are offering, as well as modify these for a wider variety of age and ability groups,” Martiny said. “We are considering possible ways of expanding our virtual classes to preschool-age participants, as well exploring how some of our other programs and gymnastics-related special events could be adapted for virtual audiences. We are also planning to offer a new round of virtual gymnastics classes in the fall. We are currently exploring what days/times will work best for these courses, so we have not included any specific details in the September through December My JCPRD Activities catalog. New information regarding these upcoming offerings will be posted to our Mill Creek Activity Center Facebook page
, the JCPRD Virtual Gymnastics Facebook page, and the Gymnastics page on JCPRD.com
“We are working on adding some live format virtual programs that would model some popular social media formats, such as a retro ‘get ready with me,’ a collection ‘unboxing’ video, etc.,” added the museum’s Gustafson. “They are not currently scheduled but will likely be pop-up programs. We definitely want people to know we are looking for suggestions and for feedback! Virtual programming is new for us, and we want to make sure we are continuing to deliver programming that is relevant and exciting for our audiences.”
“Virtual programming has been a positive outcome of the challenging times we, as a community, have been facing,” Scarborough said. “We know these programs fill a need today but we also know that need exists beyond the pandemic. We’re excited to develop options that will stick around long-term. Growing the number of people in attendance and reaching new audiences with each program continues to be a goal. So does finding ways to adapt more of our traditional programs to fit this model and that will include some new fee-based virtual options. We’ve got plans in the works to hold our New Horizons Band and Chair Yoga program virtually for the first time this fall.”
Another great way to stay connected to the most up-to-date program information available is by subscribing to our e-newsletters at jcprd.com/enewsletters
or liking JCPRD’s Facebook page