Adelie penguins chill out on an iceberg in Antarctica. (Washington Post photo by Andrea Sachs, file)
Adelie penguins chill out on an iceberg in Antarctica. (Washington Post photo by Andrea Sachs, file)

For the next few minutes, we’re not talking about it. We’re talking about penguins.

Yes, penguins. Creatures that are often presented as flattened caricatures of wobbly little birds in tuxedos, not the majestic swimmers of the Southern Hemisphere who come together to support each other as a community. Penguins are loyal to each other and to their nesting sites. Penguin parents work together to raise their young. Penguins excrete salt from their noses. What is not to love about these animals?!? 

My love affair with the penguin started early, as it does for many. I remember sitting in my elementary school library and researching the birds on a CD-ROM version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I learned that some ancient penguins, who evolved at the time of the dinosaurs, were 5 feet tall. Five feet tall. A penguin larger than me! How could I not swoon?

Years later, reading the science magazine Discover in junior high school, I learned that the most perfect of birds faced a great danger: the hotheaded naked ice borer, scourge of the penguin world. The disgusting, hairless pink things gathered underneath penguins, melted the ice, then devoured them. Oh the cruelty! To eat a penguin? I was aghast! Sure, animals eat each other all the time. Food chains are essential. But penguins? The horror stayed with me. Probably for much longer than it should have. It wasn’t until college that I realized not to trust everything in magazines published on April 1 … Maybe my first media literacy lesson?

So in these times of strangeness, when the community needs to come together figuratively while keeping a distance literally, remember that the Penguin Cam is there for you. (And if that one isn’t working, try this one. Or this one. Ok, I’ll stop now.)

Wait, you don’t like penguins?!? Try out these activities to keep your kids occupied and learning instead:

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Combating COVID-19 Innovation Challenge 

It’s going to take brilliant minds to help our society stop this pandemic. Brilliant young minds. The New York Academy of Sciences just launched an online competition for teens ages 13-17 “to design technology-based solutions to slow the spread of the disease.” It aims to help students develop critical thinking and research skills while also potentially helping everyone. The six-week competition starts March 25. Registration opened on March 18. Find out more here

Save the Children and keep them occupied

This international organization has compiled a list of different resources for your children while we all hunker down at home. Work on vocabulary by creating a word jar. Teach math by measuring ingredients for recipes. Connect with your roots by sharing family stories. Plenty of ideas for online and offline learning. 

Common Sense recommendations for age-appropriate resources

Common Sense is a nonprofit that helps parents and teachers navigate media resources and determine what’s appropriate for their kids. They rate movies, books, apps and more. They’ve compiled resources for families and teachers during the age of social distancing, including mental health apps, educational resources, guides to understanding news about the virus and more. They also have guides in Spanish.