The spread of the coronavirus is currently reaching alarming numbers and lockdowns are presently happening all over the world. For now, most school closures have been extended until Easter, but children in e.g. Shanghai are entering their third month of staying indoors, learning through screens.
The question is: how will this affect these children mentally and what tools can we use to solve this present education challenge?
This same question arose over dinner at an educator course in Green School, Bali a few weeks back. One of the participating teachers, Kristin, was sharing how she was presently teaching remotely due to the coronavirus and the lockdown of schools in China. She told us about her unforgiving task: to teach 5-year-old’s through a screen and to ask kids’, who usually learn through play and interaction with other children, to produce videos of their daily learnings.
From one day to the next, her school in Shanghai had to change its entire format and find new tools to educate the little children through a screen. The majority of the students have no siblings and despite not being quarantined, most parents chose to keep their children indoors because of the contamination worry.
As a group, we were, of course, devastated to hear this and for our final 2-hour assignment, we set ourselves the challenge to come up with ideas to improve distant learning to kids.
First, however, let’s get an answer to Kristin’s initial question: “What will happen to these kids’ mental health?”
Conscious Parenting trainer, Maguelonne Rousseau helped us with some insights:
“Children from 2-7 years old are in a developmental phase called the per-operational period where their brain will learn from experiences and experiments. During this period, they will process information received by all their senses, develop problem-solving skills implementing trial and error and using their imagination. This is achieved during interactive play, where a child manipulates objects, experiments different things, makes various attempts, and observe in real life what happens in several situations. Tuning in with his / her body is then essential to the brain to make sense of the experiences and learn from it.
Most of these experiences also need to take place outside, using natural elements as only nature can offer a wide range of sensory experiments without over stimulating the brain.”, she says.
Maguelonne Rousseau cannot predict what the future holds for the children who still have weeks or months left in lockdown, but she worries about the development of the kids:
“It is complex to predict what will happen to children mental health who are learning using screens and mostly stay indoors. We can nonetheless worry that too much screen learning will ultimately deprive a child of vital real-life experiments that induce a multitude of complex wiring in the brain. Consequently, we might see various degrees of developmental delays in multiple areas, such as cognitive, emotional and physical.”
It should be said, that at the time of the course, we did not have these insights, but the final hours of our course were spent working on a plan to how we could improve the status quo and bring in some ideas to how you can make 2D learning, 3D.
For the month that had preceded, Kristin had taught her preschoolers through the teacher/student/parent communication tool ‘Seesaw’. The children would get a question/assignment’, eg. “film and tell us what life you can see outside your window?”. The child would then video, show and tell their response and Kristin and the students would give feedback.
Now, for our ‘3D house’ of ideas, we believed it was important to not just focus on the children, but everyone involved, ie. the teachers, the parents and also caregivers. We also found that all the elements that would be presented to any of participants should include the use of either Head, Heart and the Hands (see more on this here). Using these concepts, 2D learning would feel more 3D.
With only two hours for brainstorm, creation and presentation, these were our findings on tools that could be beneficial for remote learning: (Head, Heart and Hand symbols added to above diagram where we saw fit):
- Emotional journal. Kids write/draw their thoughts and feelings about the day that has passed and share it with the students the next morning.
- Real-Time interaction: – turning on screen for a pod of 4-5 students simultaneously in order to share experiences while they happen (instead of previously recorded interactions). This could be:
- ‘Talking lunches ‘ – children see their peers help parent/caregiver to create the lunch (and learn from this) and/or enjoy the meal in front of each other as well as chatting about the different foods. It could also be a:
- “Mindfulness session” or “Active Session” where the kids do mindfulness or dance/gym/yoga with their peers.
- Group Stories – the kids record a story and the other kids continue it – it goes on like this from child to child.
- Pen Pals – the children write, record sound or video to children in other countries in the same situation and through cultural exchanges both learn about other countries but also how they are dealing with the current situation.
- Upcycling projects. By collecting trash, old clothes and other preloved items from their own home, the children create projects they can work on every day.
Like a school day, the day will be split into blocks and could look like this:
For parents, we believed the following additions would be helpful:
- Forum sharing with other parents
- Creating a weekly tool kit to support families (tips for indoor play, schedule for the following week, corona updates and advice)
- Emotional journal (write with kids/share with other parents)
- Gratefulness/mindfulness session audio/video tutorials
For teachers they will of course:
- Set the work for the students
- Join or initiate Real-Time interaction
- Forum share with other teachers
- Use Gratefulness/mindfulness sessions audio/video tutorials
- Forum Sharing with other caregivers
- Join + help with the work/Real-time interaction set by teachers
- Getting weekly toolkit in their appropriate language if necessary.
We could have added more ideas to this with more time, but above is an example of how 5 people can brainstorm and present ideas in a small amount of time. We encourage teachers and parents to use the findings as a baseline – open to alternations to what would work in their school.
For Kristin, our team member, the tools came at a needed time, and some have already been incorporated with success. Hopefully, this will be a way to help these kids, so their mental health and development progress will not be as affected.
If you’re not a teacher, but just looking to entertain your kids indoors – check out these indoor play activities for indoors + by Maguelonne Rousseau! Also check out this useful article on how to manage screen time.
Also, see this great list of list of ideas from a parent who homeschools:
– Curiosity Stream
– Beast Academy (Math)
– Khan Academy
– Creative Bug
– Discovery Education
– Crash Course Kids
– Science Channel
– SciShow Kids
– National Geographic Kids
– Free School
– Geography Focus
– Kids Learning Tube
– Geeek Gurl Diaries
– Mike Likes Science
– Science Max
Lots of board games, library books (and Kindle), tinkering/upcycling with household junk, etc.
Some resources to help with kids at home:
*Scholastic has created a free learn-from-home site with 20+ days of learning and activities.
*Pretend to travel the world..Go on a virtual tour of these 12 famous museums.
*This is the awesome free curriculum that we use. Everything from preschool activities to 12th grade is here!
*List of thinking games by grade: https://allinonehomeschool.com/thinking/
**More awesome free learning websites that we like to use**