Fill winter days with online learning

Students aren't only ones who can take advantage of a virtual education this season

The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, but life likely won't be back to normal for several months. And some folks might not be ready - even when restrictions are lifted - to leave the house.

That doesn't mean there's nothing to do. Local organizations like the Hinsdale Public Library are offering a variety of online programs to keep people informed and entertained, especially this winter.

That online programming has evolved, said Cynthia Dieden, Hinsdale's adult services manager. When the pandemic hit in March, library staff worked on creating virtual versions of the most popular programs that made sense to offer online, such as technology programs.

"Mike (Oetting, adult services librarian), who has been long known for his tech talks, started putting together some videos and some on-the-spot training for technology. He called them Quick Looks," Dieden said.

After a few months, staff shifted their focus to modifying more interactive programs, such as Hinsdale Bite Club.

"We adjusted it so people would be making other people's suggestions at home," she said. "It would kind of keep the spirit of the program even though we couldn't keep the exact format of the program."

Now, almost 10 months into the pandemic, the library has broadened its horizons. Dieden cited the Jan. 19 "My Hamilton" program by Megan Wells as an example.

"There have been people who have asked us for a costumed interpreter, so this month we're brining somebody in to do that," she said. "We're kind of reaching a little bit beyond to try to bring in some of those special events for patrons."

Other January programs include "Spotlight on College - Tips for Admission Success" (Jan. 20), "Getting the Most from Your Mac" (Jan. 27) and "Mindfulness for Teens" (Jan. 29). Get a preview of Jan. 13's Fitness Tech - At Home Fitness in the "Ask an expert" story on Page 14.

The response to programs has been good, Dieden said, and many are available on the library's website for patrons to view when convenient.

She said the staff isn't planning too far into the future.

"We are definitely taking it one restriction lifted at a time. We're looking forward to a time when we are able to invite people back in," she said.

Even when that day comes, online programming might continue.

"I'm hoping or thinking that to some extent we might live in the hybrid world for a while, where we might have people in the room but also a camera going for people who aren't comfortable coming in the space," she said.

Once upon a time

Hinsdale Public Library offers virtual story times for babies and toddlers and (9:30 to 10 a.m.) and preschoolers (10:30 to 11 a.m.) every Tuesdays. A special Monarch 2021 read-aloud for preschoolers through third-graders is set for 4 to 4:35 p.m. Thursdays, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18. In January, librarians will read these Monarch nominees over Zoom: "The Undefeated" by Kwame Alexander, "A Normal Pig" by K-Fai Steele and "The Sun Is Kind of a Big Deal" by Nick Seluk.

Read along by reserving a print copy at the library or download on Hoopla or Libby/Overdrive.

Visit to register.

• First Folio actors read a poem by Robert Frost, a classic holiday story by O. Henry, a whimsical children's story by Howard Garis and more in the winter reading series, which is available through Sunday, Jan. 10. Visit

• Online book clubs are offered through the Hinsdale Public Library and the DuPage and County forest preserve districts. See the websites listed above and below for details.

From their house to yours

The LyArts program at The Community House is offering two Zoom art classes on Saturdays, beginning Jan. 9 and running through Feb. 13.

Brushwork Apprentices is for kids in kindergarten through second grade and meets from 9 to 10 a.m. Brushwork Masters, for third- through fifth-graders, meets from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Parents can pick up supplies at The Community House.

Other online courses offered through The Community House are Virtual Coding: Coding in Scratch and Virtual Coding: Coding in Python (both starting Jan. 12).

Visit to register.

Bring nature indoors

The DuPage and Cook County forest preserve districts are offering some unique virtual learning opportunities.

January programs offered by the DuPage County forest district focus on farm crafts (Jan. 9, 16 and 23), owls (Jan. 14), wildlife tracking and observation (Jan. 16), monarchs (Jan. 17), native landscaping (Jan. 20) and mammoths (Jan. 30).

Most courses carry small fees.

Register online at or call (630) 850-8110.

The Cook County forest district has scheduled a host of programs on Facebook Live and Zoom, covering topics such as snowshoe basics, the geology of Northeastern Illinois, sun and sunspot viewing, and animal care and maintenance. Those programs and others are offered Jan. 8-15, with many more scheduled for the rest of the month. Most are free. Videos from previous sessions also are available for viewing.


Meet some animal friends

Brookfield Zoo is "Bringing the Zoo to You" Facebook Live chats while the zoo is temporarily closed in January and February.

Each weekday at 11 a.m., animal care specialists will share interesting and fun facts about many of the animals as well as answer questions from viewers. Upcoming chats will feature an update on a Kemp's ridley sea turtle who arrived at the zoo this past fall, Humboldt penguins, snow leopards and orangutans, to name a few.

The videos are available later on the zoo's Facebook page and YouTube channel.

In addition to the live chats, the Chicago Zoological Society's education staff is producing weekly videos called "Bringing the Play Zoo to You" for young children. They are posted on the zoo's Facebook page and YouTube channel every Thursday.

Visit for links.

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean