Bringing the Outside In

Favorite Resources for Connecting to the World

Things Have Shifted

My friend Don often refers to "bringing the outside in" when coaching teachers and schools to explore innovative practices, and I think that phrase can be applied to the situation in which we currently find ourselves. We are certainly living in a new day and age because of the coronavirus. Schools, restaurants, and cultural institutions are closing as part of social distancing measures and people are encouraged to stay at home.

Below is a list of potentially fun resources and activities for kids and adults that may help to bring the world into your home. I'll be adding to this from time to time. It's not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather, a selection of resources that I find valuable. The first section are resources for families and the second part are recommendations for adult learners.

If you are looking for more instructional resources, try the following :

For Kids and Parents

30 Creative Activities for Kids from Apple

Apple has produced this PDF of creative activities for kids! Tap on each item in the calendar to see a description of the activity.

Audible Stories

Audible has made a ton of content available for free for adults and kids. Many of the stories are in various languages, too. Check out this collection here.

CILC: Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration

During a recent Daily Connect meeting, Mali Bickley mentioned CILC and all the amazing virtual experiences that were available to learners. There normally is a fee to participate in their activities, but starting on March 23, they will be offering free, interactive content during typical US school hours. Providers of this content include the National Archives, Texas State Aquarium, Royal Botanical Gardens, Toledo Zoo, Mote Marine Laboratory, and more.

Citizen Science Month

Take a look at these ideas for getting involved with Citizen Science Month from Scistarter. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology also has some fascinating bird projects which allow for open participation. And, Zooniverse is "the world's largest and most popular platform for people-powered research". Lots of projects can be found on their platform that might be suitable for kids and parents to work on!

Challenge: Combating COVID-19

The New York Academy of Sciences is organizing virtual teams of 13-17-year-olds to figure out ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This challenge will take place over the course of six weeks, and students from around the world are invited to participate. This project starts on March 25th, so register soon. Thanks to Karen Blumberg (@karenblumberg) for posting about this opportunity!

Connected North

Connected North is an initiative from Taking It Global in which live video content is provided for students who live in remote Canadian locations. Their content providers have made various opportunities open for all learners. One of their partners is CILC; see above listing.

Curiosity Machine

Technovation Families offers free design challenges for kids and many of these feature common household items. This is another find from the K-12 Fab Labs and Makerspaces listserv which I highly recommend to educators interested in maker education. Follow Technovation on Twitter to learn more about this organization.

Doodlematic Mobile Game Maker

Doodlematic is a kit that allows kids to create interactive mobile games using their own drawings and the Doodlematic app. It's very clever and potentially could keep kids of all ages occupied. Parents of younger children might want to create games in collaboration with their children. Doodlematic costs $31.99 on Amazon and I found out about it from children's media expert David Kleeman who recently visited the Toy Fair in NYC. Follow Doodlematic on Twitter.
DoodleMatic - Your drawings come alive! is a free live nature cam network and documentary film channel that is brought to us from the Annenberg foundation. Its mission is to: "To champion the selfless acts of others, create a portal into the soul of humanity and inspire lifelong learning." At any given time, there are dozen of livecams from various locations around the world.I particularly love the features that let you chat with other viewers and take a virtual snapshot of a webcam image. Subscribe to the organization's newsletter and take a look at their website handbook. is all over social media including on Twitter.
Fall in Love with the World Again

Exploring By the Seat of Your Pants

Exploring By the Seat of Your Pants is an educational organization that hosts Google Hangout events for students featuring mostly scientific content. The founder of this organization, Joe Grabowski, is a Canadian teacher and National Geographic Emerging Explorer and Fellow. View previously recorded content on the EBTSOYP YouTube channel; make sure to subscribe this org's newsletter and you'll receive periodic emails that describe upcoming virtual field trip opportunities. Follow EBTSOYP on Twitter, too.
The Turtle Hospital: Virtual Field Trip

Go Noodle

Go Noodle has free, fun, and interactive content for kids that is designed to promote social-emotional learning and active screen time. Recently, they launched a new gaming app for kids as well. The video app and the gaming app are available for a variety of platforms including iOS, Apple TV, Make sure to check out their YouTube channel for handy playlists of content and their Twitter feed!
Trolls: Can't Stop The Feeling | GoNoodle

Google Arts & Culture

Google Arts & Culture is such a tremendous resource for virtual exploring many of the world's cultural institutions plus you can use their nearby feature to see what's located near you. There is an app available that finds a work of art that's similar to your own selfie in addition to providing information about works all over the world. The Google Arts & Culture YouTube Channel and Twitter feed also have great content.
Google Arts & Culture - For the Culturally Curious

Hogwarts Digital Escape Room

Louise Maine posted this Hogwarts themed Digital Escape Room on Facebook. It's the brainchild of Sydney Krawiec, Youth Services Librarian at Peters Township Public Library in McMurray, PA. Teachers, you could create something similar using Google Forms!

Related: Breakout Edu is a platform for physical and digital educational escape rooms is coming out for games for home use. Sign up here to learn more.

Minifigure Madness

There may be no March NCAA Madness this year, but you can and your student can participate in Minifigure Madness courtesy of LEGO. Visit this tweet and start voting on your favorite minifigures over the next couple of weeks. You can keep track of your brackets with this handy dandy .PDF.Thanks to Derek Baird for sharing this!
Big picture

The Metropolitan Opera

For the next week, the Met is streaming “Nightly Met Opera Streams,” a free series of encore Live in HD presentations streamed on the company website during the coronavirus closure. See the full schedule here, browse educator guides from past seasons, and follow the Met on Twitter.

Mo Willems Lunch Doodles & Thank You Thursdays

LUNCH DOODLES with Mo Willems! Mo Willems invited the public into his studio every day for his LUNCH DOODLE and now is hosting a new series called Thank You Thursdays.

Visit to watch all of Mo's videos, find activity sheets to print out & follow along, and more!

For more drawing and read-aloud activities, check out this Fast Company article posted to Twitter by Karen Blumberg and this one from We Are Teachers posted by Bernajean Porter. Also, see 5 Online Art Challenges to Help You to Stay Creative and Connected During Coronavirus Lockdown.

THANK YOU THURSDAYS with Mo Willems! Episode 1
LUNCH DOODLES with Mo Willems! Episode 01

Mouse Open Projects

Mouse is a national non-profit that promotes computer science and creative uses of technology. Take a look at their Mouse Open Projects page which contains several do-it-yourself projects using free tools such as Tinkercad and Scratch. Mouse is also hosting free online workshops for teachers who want to get involved with their programs. Mouse Open Projects is a suggestion from the K-12 Fab Labs and Makerspaces listserv and you can follow them on Twitter here.

Newberry Transcribe

This is a great opportunity brought to my attention by my colleague at NSCDS, David Green. The Newberry Library in Chicago has a project going on in which parents and students can perform a community service by transcribing handwritten primary source documents into searchable digital resources for the public and researchers. Select from four collections: Family Life in the Midwest letters, Family Life in the Midwest diaries, American Indian letters and diaries, and U.S Western Expansion letters and diaries. I just took a look at a document and it may not be as easy as it sounds, but this is an absolutely fascinating project!

Nature Activities

Check out various posts from Sanborn Western Camps on connecting with nature. No contact with others needed! Here's one on making a sound tapestry. This comes my way via the former director of my kids' camp who now works for Sanborn. They will be adding more activities over time.
Nature Nuggets: Sound Tapestry


Find live online classes designed just for kids ages 3-18 at Outschool! There are sessions available at reasonable prices on a variety of subjects including the arts, life skills, world languages, health and wellness, and technology. Outschool just announced free classes for kids affected by school closure; check out updates here. Follow Outschool on Twitter here.
What is Outschool?


Just because we need to practice social distancing measures right now, it doesn't mean that we cannot go outside. We just need to limit our contact with others. I've always been a fan of the photo walking concept and of how the Michigan Avenue Apple store often hosts photo walks so that customers can practicing using phone and iPad features and photography techniques.

It turns out that there is an organization, Virtual Photo Walks, that organizes photo walks for those who cannot experience the world themselves and this organization was the recipient of an innovation award from Zoom, the video conferencing platform that many schools will be using for elearning purposes. Maybe families could host a virtual photo walk as a service-learning project?

Pictionary Air

Another find from the Toy Fair is Pictionary Air, an augmented reality version of the traditional family game. You can use it solo or on with teams on Android or Apple devices and it might make for a fun family activity while you are homebound. It costs about $15 at Target or Amazon, and it's probably geared towards kids and adults ages 8 on p.
We played Pictionary in AR


Here's a list of education-related podcasts that I am curating. Most of these suggestions came from Apple Podcasts, and I'll be adding to this as I discover additional ones.

Pokemon Go

Consider playing Pokemon Go with your school-age child! My husband plays this with my teenage son on a regular basis and often it involves driving around town to catch various Pokemon characters with virtually no direct contact with others. The company behind this mobile app game has made some modifications for the coronavirus era which you can read about here. Use this shift in our lifestyles to engage and actually PLAY with your kid!
Pokémon GO - Get Up and Go!

Service Learning Projects

Storyline Online

Storyline Online is a wonderful literacy initiative from the SAG-AFTRA Foundation and it features videos of celebrities reading children's literature. Many titles are available and are accompanied by activity guides for teachers. Follow Storyline on Twitter.
Storyline Online Public Service Announcement - 30 second spot for broadcast

WildEarth.TV is a daily expert-hosted live safari broadcast from Africa. I follow on Twitter and have turned on live notifications for when this org starts broadcasting. You can also follow discussions and ask questions on Twitter using the hashtag #WildEarth. It looks like they host virtual safaris for kids; information is available here.


Investigate Wimja: Creative Challenges During School Closure for fun hands-on activities. I'm not sure where I found this site, but it's perfect for those interested in making! Find challenges your kids can do themselves at home around design, art, coding, and active learning.

Your Local Library

Make sure to check out your local library to see how they can help you!I love my local library. We're lucky to live in a town with an amazing facility and Northbrook Public Library has been proactive in closing its building while still providing some services. Digital resources are still available including eBooks, eAudiobooks, streaming, homework help, and research resources. If you put items on hold at this library, a drive-up service is starting where you can pick up your order.

Zoom Life

My friend and fellow ed tech aficionado Chris Walsh is co-hosting a Facebook group for parents and kids of all ages to create videos at home. Info posted in the group is as follows:

Create-at-home video projects for kids of all ages lead by volunteer Tour Guides who love learning and exploring.

How does it work?

  1. Join the launch party on Zoom.
  2. Create your own video over the week.
  3. Broadcast your video to a live audience.

Take a look at this doc for the first project. And if you join the group, you can view the kickoff meeting video here.

Why do this? - Explore your world. - Be creative. - Learn from each other.
No rubrics. No grades. No prizes. No pressure.

For Adults (and Maybe Teenagers)


Sarah Hanawald mentioned this site during a recent Daily Connect video conference meeting. Bluprint offers online crafting classes on topics such as quilting, sewing, knitting, crocheting and baking. There is a free 14-day trial available and after that, it looks like their annual plan has been slashed in half to $39.99.
Welcome to Bluprint | How It Works


Brainpickings is another amazing resource for adult learners. Maria Popova curates inspirational and thought-provoking content from around the world. Make sure to subscribe to her newsletters and follow her on Twitter.


HitRecord is one of the most ingenious creative sites out there! This online global arts community is the brainchild and passion project of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Regular people from all walks of life contribute to various artistic endeavors through writing, photography, music making etc. Challenges are posted all the time in which everyone can participate. Here's one focused on the global crisis at hand; report in on how the coronavirus is impacting you and your community. Make sure to follow HitRecord on Twitter and you'll catch requests for participation!
HITRECORD: From Production Company to Platform

Netflix Party

This came to my attention via a fellow director of educational technology, Suzan Brandt. Multiple people can watch the same movie on their browsers at the same time via a Chrome browser extension called Netflix Party. Everyone installs the extension, one person starts the movie, clicks the extension in their browser, gets a link and then sends it to their friends who then login to Netflix. All can watch and chat at the same time! Find directions and details in this article.

NY Times Parenting

Occupy White Walls

Occupy White Walls has been described as Minecraft for the art world. It is an experimental gaming platform for building virtual art spaces. I have not played with this yet and it seems very cutting edge. See the video below to get a sense of what it's all about.
Art and gaming, what a non-starter

Open Culture

Take a look at the Open Culture website and make sure to follow this organization on Twitter. It contains a treasure trove of content for learners of all ages and is probably geared more towards teenagers and adults. Find free ebooks, audiobooks, and courses on this amazing site!

The Virtual Book Channel

The Virtual Book Channel is an initiative from LitHub, a site where literary news, reviews, and resources are aggregated. The Virtual Book Channel features original programming for writers to reach their readers in the age of coronavirus. For example, here's an interview with Alice Waters and her daughter Fanny Singer who has written a cookbook and memoir about culinary life.