Arkansas Game and Fish Commission nature and education centers may have had to shut their doors to the public because of the coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean its educators can’t continue introducing families to the outdoors.


Thanks to collaboration between nature centers, regional educators, program coordinators and other AGFC staff, a virtual nature center is open at www.agfcnaturecenter.com to keep the conservation message alive, according to the Arkansas Wildlife Weekly Newsletter.


“Since the centers were closed to the public, our educators have shown some real creativity with how they can continue teaching people about the outdoors,” said Chris Colclasure, deputy director of the AGFC. “With over half a million students at home, this is a great time to launch an online nature center.”


The virtual nature center combines some previously existing content with new material developed from years of popular education workshops at nature centers. Subjects run the gamut from how to get started crappie fishing, to searching for morel mushrooms, to recipe segments from the Emmy-nominated Arkansas Wildlife Television show.


“Some people may be familiar with the older content, and some of the new content has already seen some excellent response through Facebook,” said Spencer Griffith, marketing director for the AGFC.


The nature center content will continue to evolve, showcasing topics relevant to the current season.


“AGFC staff is hard at work producing new videos and programs for the virtual nature center. Make sure to check back for new content every couple of days or drop us an email at askagfc@agfc.ar.gov if you have a program request,” Griffith said.


In addition to the virtual center work, many staff have been able to make improvements around the physical nature center sites, including the removal of invasive privet on nature center grounds and the continued renovation of the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center in Fort Smith, according to the news release.


“Schools have had to close, organized sports are canceled or postponed, but the outdoors is always open,” Colclasure said. “Even when some cities and states have issued stay-at-home orders, getting outside for exercise and fresh air is recommended as long as people are not gathering in large groups while they’re doing it. We want to offer people ideas on what all is possible now and after this period of social distancing is over.”


For details on the new online AGFC nature center, visit www.agfcnaturecenter.com.