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Nature offers its own brand of therapy, and coastal Georgians can benefit from this outlet during today’s stressful and uncertain times.

To help residents get out in nature, even in a time of social distancing and community-wide shutdowns, local nonprofit One Hundred Miles has launched three weekly virtual education programs that can be accessed from home.

The programs include Animals, Authors and Art story time with animals and crafts on Mondays, Nature in Your Neighborhood on Wednesdays and Family Nature Fridays.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re obviously having to adjust to a whole new world, just as everyone is, and so that meant canceling our in-person programs like Naturalist 101 and Families in Nature,” said Catherine Ridley, vice president for education and communications for One Hundred Miles. “But we still want to find ways to help families connect to the world around them.”

One Hundred Miles’ educational programs are meant to help coastal Georgians immerse themselves in the natural beauty that surrounds them daily. That intent hasn’t changed, even as the programs move to digital platforms during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s definitely a strange and anxious time,” Ridley said. “Personally, I’ve been going on a lot of long walks with my son. Exploring the outdoor world is how I minimize that stress.”

Nature education and exploration improve mental and physical health, Ridley said.

“People are relying on the coast more than ever,” she said. “Nature provides that benefit year round.”

The Animals, Authors and Art videos each feature a nature-inspired children’s book accompanied by an art project. Nature in Your Neighborhood videos help families better understand the nature found in their backyards.

And Family Nature Friday videos feature hands-on activities that will take participants outside and help them discover the natural world.

“These digital programs are designed to help families and learners of all ages connect with our coast and to those benefits, especially at a time when we need nature more than ever,” Ridley said.

The nonprofit has also launched an environmental book club online, through which people can read along with staff and discuss books on social media and the Goodreads page.

The nonprofit’s other conservation efforts are also continuing, despite the global health crisis claiming the attention of most people right now.

“We can’t take our eye off the ball in terms of protecting our coast,” Ridley said.

One Hundred Miles is planning a series of advocacy workshops that will aim to help citizens stay informed and find ways to take action.

All of the virtual programming will continue to be offered until the health crisis passes, Ridley said.

“We plan to keep these weekly series going throughout this uncertain time, but I expect these are programs that will continue into the future too,” she said. “We’re increasingly living in a digital world, and it’s important to meet our community where they are.”

Ridley encouraged coastal Georgia residents to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits nature can provide.

“As long as people are maintaining a safe social distance between themselves and other families, it’s the perfect time to get outside and explore our coast and be inspired by the world around us.”

The virtual programs can be accessed online at OneHundredMiles.org/DigitalEducation. People can also follow the nonprofit at Facebook.com/OneHundredMilesGA or instagram.com/OneHundredMiles.

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