Stuck Inside? Join a Virtual Class

Looking to learn something new, but still cautious about getting out there? These three organizations provide enticing activities from exploring the natural world to practicing photography.

Over the past year, most of us have spent more time indoors than we prefer. Thanks to today’s ever-changing technology and the rise of live-streaming, it’s easier than ever to interact with others while remaining at home.

It’s also easier than ever to pick up new talents while you’re passing the time. These three organizations are using technology to keep people connected and minds engaged when other avenues aren’t available. 

Lake County Forest Preserves

Even before COVID-19, the educators at Lake County Forest Preserves had planned to start virtual programming. This past spring, when things were shut down, the team jumped into action. 

“We started first by developing several virtual field trips. Many teachers took advantage of that in May,” says Nan Buckardt, education director of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “Since then, using the lessons learned from May, we developed 15 virtual field trip opportunities that are geared to the various grade levels.”

Today, there’s a wealth of resources available through the forest preserve’s website, An entire page features digital resources aimed at educators, home-schoolers and interested parents. Videos engage young minds on topics like birding, nature activities and local history. Virtual field trips help teachers to bridge environmental and historical topics such as Illinois geology, maple syrup, dinosaurs and Potawatomi Indians.

“The virtual school field trip topics were easy to determine – we used the Illinois State Learning Standards as our guide,” says Buckardt. “The standards tell us which topics teachers at the various grade levels are focusing on. For our more general audiences, we are using some of our most popular program topics – coyotes, community names in Lake County – but expanding beyond what we have done previously.”

There’s plenty for adults to enjoy, too, including a talk with a nature educator on maple syrup, a virtual tour of the Dunn Museum and a talk on animal skulls. 

The calendar of events includes a wide range of virtual events. Native gardening is on the docket for late March and late April. A presentation on April 15 highlights sixteen officers who arrived at the Great Lakes Naval Station in 1944 and became the Navy’s first African-American officers.

The Bess Bower Dunn Museum’s first entirely virtual exhibition is a collaboration between the museum and the College of Lake County’s Black Student Union. Our Voice is Black History: Past, Present, Future presents stories through graphic design, poetry, writing, art and video about the experience of African-Americans in Lake County. The program will open for in-person viewing on July 3 and run through Oct. 31. 

All virtual events and activities are available online at The events calendar displays upcoming programs and access to event registration. A Zoom link will be emailed after registration.

Fine Line Creative Arts Center

This haven for artists in St. Charles has made a big shift over the past year. While it main advantage has always been connection through in-person instruction, Fine Line has embraced new opportunities with virtual classes.

Through Zoom, the Fine Line staff has conducted classes on topics like weaving, ceramics, jewelry and photography. Interestingly, some of the most advanced classes are set up online, assuming students already have the equipment on-hand, says Jodi Younglove, program director.

Advanced weaving and ceramics classes introduce topics like lace weaves, where students weave a lace-like structure on a loom. Advanced ceramics courses focus on complex forms and glazing, with an eye toward moving students to the next level.

Fine Line Creative Arts Center, in St. Charles, has taken several of its photography classes online with virtual sessions aimed at technique, composition, editing and smartphone cameras, among other topics.

Virtual photography classes, on the other hand, appeal to a wide range of skills and backgrounds. Available through the summer, they’ll focus on techniques, approaches, composition, photo editing and mastering the smartphone camera.

All online classes have a fee, depending on the subject matter and required materials. Members of the nonprofit Fine Line Arts Center receive a discount.

Sign up for classes – both virtual and in-person – and explore more options online at 

Huntley Area Public Library

The public library adapted quickly to the pandemic. 

“We have many levels of programming here that start with trying to meet the needs of our patrons,” says Doug Cataldo, head of marketing. “We do programming for children, teens, tweens, adults and families.”

Library staff have picked a variety of topics, covering everything from math, test prep and job searching to local and global history. Best of all, many of these resources are accessible to people outside the library’s service area.

Recently, the library shared a video on British history presented by John Gowing, an accredited London Blue Badge tour guide and local radio host. The video is now available on

“The programmers are very creative and use a network with other libraries to find programs as well,” says Cataldo. “In this case, we kind of had to start from scratch and pick topics that we thought would resonate with the community.”

Storytime has always been popular for local children, so it was an early target for library staff. Over the past few months, the children’s librarians have been reading stories online. Naturally, the popularity of storytime inspired new ideas.

“The crafts-at-home program began when one of our staff who used to work in the children’s department volunteered to try to do something,” says Cataldo. “She did a fantastic job, not only doing the crafts but making the craft, videotaping the craft, editing the craft and sending in a finished product for us.”

The 30-book challenge, which began in 2020, is a reading program aimed at kids ages 6 through 12. It runs through May 1 and encourages youngsters to read 30 books from various categories. Complete all nine “badges” along the quest and collect prizes, too. Cataldo says a similar reading program for teenagers and adults is coming soon. 

A new virtual field trip runs through April and May. This partnership with Illinois libraries allows library patrons explore the Chicago area’s rich cultural institutions.

“Some of the behind-the-scenes tours are going to be at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the DuSable Museum of African-American History, Garfield Park Conservatory and the Illinois Holocaust Museum,” says Cataldo. “These are all free programs, thanks to the 35 libraries that participate. Each library is excited to be able to offer this to their community, especially since we can’t congregate together.”

The library will be closed for construction from mid-March through late April, but digital events and services will continue. There’s a good chance your local library has offerings, too.

For more information on upcoming events and programs at the Huntley Area Public Library, head to