Like many people, I had such high hopes for this summer. I had planned to go on a road trip through several cities. I was going to eat at fun restaurants, take pictures on scenic vistas, and get lost in a crowd late some summer evening. I’d saved the money, made the plans, and had all the dates circled on my calendar.
Then COVID-19 arrived.
So, yeah, I’ll now be spending the summer at home. I’ll admit I’m disappointed but there’s always next year, and I’m sure many of you are feeling the same way too. But what about our students? It’s summer and all the pools, restaurants, and movie theaters are closed. Family vacation has most likely turned into a family staycation. They can’t even spend time with their friends without standing six feet apart!
For them, this is literally the lost summer.
Preparing for Fall
Children losing their summer feels like something out of The Chronicles of Narnia. Hard as it may be for us, we likely can’t even begin to imagine their frustration. To make matters worse, the fall school year is right around the corner. We all know this coming semester is going to be difficult, but I don’t think we’ve accounted for student melancholy. It’s going to be hard to teach anything when our class is haven’t had the opportunity to rest, recharge, and recover.
How do we possibly build anticipation for the school year in such a severely despondent climate? Well, we start by mixing things up. We always knew this wasn’t going to be an ordinary school year, so why not think a little weirder? Instead of trying to teach as you normally would, try implementing the following strategies and give your students something to look forward to.
Changing the Classroom
- Student Meditation: The first step is to help students cultivate a healthy mindset. Meditation may sound like an odd edition to your curriculum, but it can work wonders by helping students overcome stress. Setting aside five to ten minutes a day for deep breathing gives your kids a chance to collect themselves and process emotions. Once finished, they’ll be refreshed and ready to resume the lesson. Sometimes all kids need is a chance to breathe.
- Unstructured Play: While it’s tempting to build more control into the upcoming semester, we cannot underestimate the importance of unstructured play. Remember, these are kids who’ve just lost their summer and all those opportunities for free-roaming discovery. Give them time to create, to explore, to engage the world in their own way with no rules, structure, or assigned end goal. Just simple, imaginative free play. Let them rediscover that spark of wonder.
- Project-based Learning: Students want to matter. They want to know that their actions and learning lead to positive changes. Project-based learning is an ideal way to promote student curiosity, creativity, and critical-thinking while also making a meaningful impact on the world. Projects like Blue Apple’s The Dirty Truth or Take a Stand give students the opportunity to work on issues that really matter to them. When students apply their learning to challenges filled with purpose, they feel relevant and gratified.
- Cultivate Curiosity: Curiosity is the driving force behind all learning. If students lose their inquisitive nature, it will be impossible for them to learn anything! Cultivate their innate curiosity with fun facts or reflection journals. Encourage them to write down their questions and wonderings. Puzzle them with mystery boxes or collaborative games. The beauty of curiosity is that it engages the mind and compels us forward.
- Encourage Ownership: Lastly, make students an equal partner in their own learning. By encouraging student ownership, you not only get kids to invest in their education, you give them the tools they need to thrive. Work with them to create classroom rule and protocol. Allow them greater voice and choice in homework assignments. Make meaningful detours in lessons to give them a new perspective. Sometimes the best thing we can do for them is to take a step back.
Choose to Smile
It’s easy to look ahead and see nothing but challenges in the new semester, but this is also a season of opportunity. We have the chance to make this an extraordinary year for our students. We can show them that learning doesn’t have to be a straight line. That even in the shadow of COVID-19 there are opportunities to grow, laugh, and explore the world around them. Let’s do our best to give them back a little bit of summer.