Many teachers and families are concerned that children staying at home for an extended period of time—whether due to an illness, a natural disaster, or another emergency situation—aren’t learning as much as they would if they were in their regularly scheduled classes, even when teachers send home packets of work to do.
Long periods of time spent indoors can lead to frustration, boredom, and too much TV or other technology use. Engaging children’s natural curiosity in learning can save both the students’ and parents’ sanity. Luckily, with the plethora of free educational activities available online, with a little planning, learning doesn’t have to be put on hold even when attendance at school does.
Project-Based Learning: An Extended Educational Activity
If you know a student will be at home for a set amount of time or for at least a week, you can plan a project-based learning activity. Work together with the youth to find a topic of interest that they can explore for a certain amount of time. Then, use a calendar to plan out various activities that result in a product to capture their learning, such as a slideshow, video “documentary,” webpage, essay, comic book, skit, song, etc.
There are many excellent project-based learning activities that you can explore as examples before creating one unique to your student. Incorporate activities focused on the topic your child chooses in all subjects, including reading, writing, math, science, social studies, art, physical education, and other subjects the student takes during a typical school week.
Example of Project-Based Learning Activities about Recycling:
- Reading: Read 1 new article/online book about recycling each day.
- Writing: Take notes on articles in a notebook. Write poetry about recycling. Write letters to government officials about what their city/state could do to better handle recycled materials.
- Math: Solve math problems that involve recycling. Compare data about recycling between different countries or states. Make charts and graphs about the effects of recycling on greenhouse gas production.
- Social Studies: Research how the recycling industry affects different countries. Research the history of recycling. Research what happens to a bottle that is recycled. Research why some countries are refusing America’s recycled goods.
- Art: Create works of art from or using recycled materials. Explore how recycled materials are being used in fashion.
- Physical Education: Make workout equipment from recycled things around the home. Set up obstacle courses using recycled goods. Make a game out of going through closets and see what clothes and household goods could be recycled.
The Next Best Thing: Virtual Learning
Many schools are already using digital learning tools like GoogleClassroom or Blackboard. Teachers and families can best serve students by having open communication about how a student stuck at home can stay connected to their classmates. Perhaps they can continue to join some or all sessions as they transition back into the classroom. If an emergency causes a whole school or district closure, teachers can hold class sessions for all students online and encourage classmates to reach out to each other to stay connected and avoid isolation.
There may be times when teachers and schools are unable to provide online learning for their students for a variety of reasons, such as lack of technology for each student or emergency conditions for the school or teacher. In this case, parents may want to provide online learning activities themselves. Here are some resources:
- BrainPOP has free, unlimited access for children who attend closed schools.
- Breakout EDU curated a list of educational games by grade level for students grade K-12.
- Parlay, an online learning platform, will be free to everyone until April 30th.
- PBS Newshour has free resources for learning about civics for students grade 6-12.
- Explorify has free and engaging resources for science education.
- Nanowrimo is a free young writers program with resources divided by grade level for K-12 students.
- One school district compiled a list of virtual learning opportunities for parents to do with students, organized by grade level from Pre-K-12
During stressful situations when students are not able to attend school, it’s important to come up with a new routine. Structure helps youth, especially those who are currently experiencing or have experienced trauma, feel safe. However teachers and parents choose to support student learning outside the school building, maintaining a consistent schedule, rituals, and time for decompression and reflection can help families learn together, even in times of crisis.