Staff from the Taos Youth and Family Center have been finding new ways to reach out to the community, as the coronavirus pandemic shut down the facility to visitors in March.

One of those new avenues of connecting with kids in particular has come in the form of virtual recreation.

Tony Struck, director of the Taos Youth and Family Center, said that virtual recreation was created in place for the normal programs that would usually be taking place during the summertime, such as Hoops and Skills and Craft Corner.

There are a total of seven different programs available online - some new and some that have been around for some time.

In fact, one of those new programs is Beginner Youth Fishing 101, which teaches kids basic fishing skills. This program in particular is led by assistant recreation supervisor Chris Cordova, and in his first three videos uploaded to YouTube, he has shown kids how to tie hooks and lures, how to differentiate between different rod types and how to choose what to take with you on a fishing trip.

For Cordova's next video, he plans on teaching casting techniques.

"I try doing this in a chronological order," Cordova said. "Now, we're practicing our casting and next week we'll actually go fishing."

Cordova said the idea for the program spawned from seeing a couple rec kids at the store, who told them they went camping and didn't know how to fish. At that point, it was clear what virtual recreation program he wanted to do.

"I was like 'Oh gosh, how many kids haven't had somebody teach them how to bait a hook or tie a hook or how to fish in general?'" Cordova said. "It's very rewarding to see that a kid uses your advice."

In the most recently uploaded fishing video, Cordova also teaches beginners how to choose between different hooks and types of baits, and explains some of the essential gear he always makes sure to take to local rivers and lakes.

"All of this stuff I always have in my tackle box and I never leave to the river without it," Cordova says in the video. "I always have a hat, long-sleeve shirt, short-sleeved shirt, change of socks and shoes, rain ponchos - just always be ready for everything."

A returning program - albeit the first time in virtual form - is Hoops and Skills and is led by recreation supervisor Lorenzo Martinez. The program has been around for the past three years, according to Struck.

So far, Martinez has uploaded three basketball training videos to the Taos Youth and Family Center's YouTube page.

The first Hoops and Skills video focuses on shooting free throws, the second video focuses on dribbling and the third video - which was released on July 18 - focuses on one-on-one.

In that video, Martinez calls the game "One-on-one with Michael Jordan" and states that for every missed shot, Jordan gets two points and for every made shot, one point is awarded to you.

He also teaches kids how to play "Lucky 7's" which can be played alone or with a partner. There are seven marked spots around the court in which contestants are asked to shoot and count their shots at the end, before shooting a free throw to keep their score secured; if the shot is missed, the score resets.

Martinez, who played basketball at both Questa and Taos, said that some of these drills are ones that appear during the normal Hoops and Skills program. He said about two groups of 40 kids participated in past programs.

"I like to teach a lot of basic fundamentals," Martinez said. "I try to break it down as best as I can."

If sports aren't for you, then maybe arts and crafts or gardening may be more appealing.

Elias Cisneros, a recreation specialist, is hosting Youth Garden, in which he teaches kids how to, well, garden. This is the program's second year - although this is the first year virtually.

"I find it a little difficult since I am more of a hands-on person," Cisneros said of teaching kids how to garden by video rather than in person. "But at the same time, my motivation is for the kids to do better for the community. … I want to do something that encourages them and inspires them to work for a better future."

Cisneros said that he likes to make the videos entertaining since that's what kids are most responsive to, but he also wants to make the videos simple so that kids pick up on these techniques that can be so valuable in the future.

"I have a schedule," Cisneros said. "I have basically from planting starts to planting in the garden, and then I have a video coming up on the benefits of gardening. … Eventually I'll talk about growing the plants for seeds."

Cisneros is planting seeds in-house, such as carrots. In a video coming out this week, Cisneros will also show some pumpkin and squash plants.

At home, he has his own garden where he grows sweet peas, lettuce and scarlet Nantes carrots, among other veggies.

Besides gardening though, Craft Corner - hosted by Shannon Wood, an administrative assistant and recreation specialist - teaches kids how to do simple arts and crafts projects for enjoyment.

In one video, Wood shows kids how to make sun catchers and in another she teaches them how to make paper out of shaving cream. Wood also has presentations uploaded onto the Youth and Family Center website, such as on bubble painting and how to make play dough.

Wood said she gets the ideas for crafting projects from her kids, who are ages 9 and 10.

"That's usually the ages of most of the kids who showed up," Wood said. "I try to get ideas of what to do [from them]."

The Taos Youth and Family Center also has programs for virtual aquatics and even a weekly reading from one of the employees.

These programs were inspired by what other rec centers in other states were doing, Wood said. And so they applied what they already knew into virtual form.

"Everybody's doing basically the same thing if we were still open," Wood said. "Lorenzo has done the basketball camp, Elias has done the garden, I've done arts and crafts for the past couple years. … And so, we were just like, let's keep going and try to reach out to these kids even if they can't be here."

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