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Meet the horses Friday nights at Hedgewood Farms. (Photo Credit: Hedgewood Farms)

Remember back six months and 100 years ago, when screen time was an after-school treat? Now most kids are learning digitally for all or part of their week. All the more reason to immerse them in nature on afternoons and weekends (and sorry kids, Animal Crossing does not count). These creative new programs will help your kids get outside to the farms and beaches of the North Fork and maybe learn a little something along the way.

Hang out with horses

Kids ages 5 and up can spend an evening with the horses of Hedgewood Farms in Laurel while you enjoy a much-needed date night. The FriYays at the Farm drop-off series will be held 6 p.m.- 8 p.m. for six consecutive Fridays starting Sept. 18. Each evening will feature a variety of activities, including barn tours, horse grooming, and wrapping and bandaging. Oct. 16 will be a movie night and ice cream social and Oct. 23 will feature a Halloween party. The $20 fee includes a snack and a drink; masks and social distancing are required. Call 631-926-3118 to register.

A marine education kit provides ideas and supplies for a beach exploration project. (Photo Credit: Cornell Cooperative Extension)

Relax with nature journaling 

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Nature Journaling Program is a unique hybrid after-school activity. Kids ages 6 to 12 log on with marine educator Hazel Wodehouse and artist educator Carolyn Munaco as they set out on virtual field trips to explore and observe local creatures and habitats. Then students take what they’ve learned into the world using a provided journaling kit to commune with nature and get their own observations, thoughts, and drawings down IRL. Four-week sessions will be held Thursdays this fall from 4 p.m.-5 p.m. and cost $105. Art and marine science hybrid programs will also be offered weekday afternoons. Register for a class at this link or DIY your own beach exploration project by purchasing a marine education kit at this one.

The beach trail at Hallock State Park Preserve. (Photo credit: Michelina Da Fonte)

Clean up the beach

Families can get some fresh air while doing a good deed by joining in the International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, Sept.19 from 12 p.m.-3 p.m. at Hallock State Park Preserve in Riverhead. Organized by Group for the East End and the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, the event is designed to collect and document the trash littering our coastline. Pre-registration at this link is mandatory, as are masks and social distancing. Can’t make the date? DIY a family beach cleanup by downloading the Marine Debris Tracker app.

Go to school at the aquarium

If your kids are in remote learning, but you need to work outside the home, the Long Island Aquarium might have a solution: Fish Academy, which provides ample space for kids to work, high-speed Internet access and educators to help keep them on task. The best part: After class is over, kids log off and spend time checking out the sea life at the aquarium and enjoying aquarium-themed activities, games and projects. Masks, laptops, and immunization are required and the cost is $50/day for non-members, $45/day for members, and $25/day for before-school and after-school sessions. Reservations are required 72 hours in advance; call 631-208-9200 X426 or email [email protected]

Paint Party Night at East End Arts. (Photo Credit: East End Arts)

Get your socially distanced art on

A hit this summer, Paint Party Nights at East End Arts in Riverhead have been extended into the fall. These small group art classes of no more than 11 students, held every Thursday evening, allow kids to spread out and get expert painting instruction. Private groups are welcome to schedule a class together. The organization also has a long roster of current and upcoming after-school classes for kids age K-12, including group and private classes in music, art, acting, rock band school, art portfolio development and yoga. Check out all their offerings at

Explore the Peconic River

On Friday, Sept. 18 from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m., the Long Island Science Center is launching its first outdoor, socially distanced Citizen Science Program. Kids will meet up with an instructor at the edge of the Peconic River behind the science center building in Riverhead and conduct a series of science experiments exploring the quality of the water and the tiny invertebrates that live in it. The class is $12 for non-members, free for members, and masks are required. Register at this link.