By Todd Stanley
Todd Stanley is the author of several education books including Project-Based Learning for Gifted Students and Performance-Based Assessment for 21st-Century Skills, both for Prufrock Press.
COVID-19 has hit the world like a mack truck and we are having to reinvent school, building the plane as it is flying so to speak. As bleak as the situation is, there is an opportunity here. The opportunity is to teach students to learn for themselves and to love learning. That students don’t need to receive an assignment from their teacher in order to learn something. Learning doesn’t have to end just because school as we typically know it has.
What I have included here are 19 learning opportunities that students can consider while they sit in their homes. We have a lot of time on our hands and being productive with our minds is going to be essential to fighting the quarantine blues and prevent us from going stir crazy. You should not think of these as assignments, rather they would be learning opportunities that students can choose to engage in or not. I have broken them into four categories:
Learning Opportunity #1 – start a new hobby
Is there a hobby you always wanted to do but never got around to doing it? It could be teaching yourself to play tennis, taking up photography, it could be gardening, or something like knitting. Pick a hobby that doesn’t involve you having to leave your house and would take minimal materials. You don’t want to be taking up skydiving. Keep it simple.
Learning Opportunity #2 – learn a new board game
Time spent with family is a good opportunity to play games as a group. Better yet, play a game you have never played before and learn it together. There are tons of board games that will stretch your thinking and challenge you. Blockus, Qwirkle, or even the very appropriate Pandemic. Here is a list to generate some ideas for games you might try https://myedexpert.com/item/board-games-that-teach/. It is also easy to order these on Amazon and have them delivered.
Learning Opportunity #3 – do a passion project
What is something you have always wanted to learn more about but have never taken the time to do? It could be you’ve always wanted to learn how to make homemade soap, or how to write a haiku, or learn about all of the presidents who have been assassinated. It could be skill-based such as you’ve always wanted to learn how to play Bridge or how to sew. This is the opportunity for students to truly learn something they want to learn.
Learning Opportunity #4 – tell a dystopian story
This genre of fiction has become its own section at the library there are so many of them. Here is you chance to tell your own dystopian story and the beginning is already written for you. A global pandemic sweeps across the world, sending people into isolation and leaving governments helpless to stop it. Then you take the story from there. You could write the story, draw a graphic novel, or even act it out in a scene.
Learning Opportunity #5 – cook or bake something
People are going to be eating out less and less. It is a good time to learn how to make a new meal or bake something you haven’t before. There are tons of free recipes on-line you could try. Make sure you get parent permission first but be willing to take risks. Cooking is a great method of learning because it doesn’t always go perfectly but you learn from your mistakes and that is what makes it such a good teaching method.
Learning Opportunity #6 – going for a walk
Don’t forget to get outside during this time. Even states that have lockdowns are allowing people to walk in parks as long as they keep a good amount of social distancing. Although staying home is very important, getting even small breaks by taking a walk around the block can do wonders. Make sure you take a parent or relative with you.
Learning Opportunity #7 – work on something artistic
We often think of artistic as being painting, or drawing, but there are other options for people as well. Could be writing poetry or a short story, filming a short movie, crafting something out of wood, or painting fingernails. Even a sandbox video game such as Minecraft or Sim City will allow you to create. That is the point, not necessarily to create art but create something.
Learning Opportunity #8 – finishing a project
Do you have a project you started and have put on hold? Now is the perfect opportunity to take it back up and complete it. It could be planting flowers in the garden, painting a room, organizing all of your books, or any other project you either haven’t gotten to finishing or always wanted to do but haven’t.
Learning Opportunity #9 – clean an area of the house
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in your house so why not make it a space you want to live in? This could be your room, it could be a closet that needs organized, or even a bigger project such as the basement or the garage. It may sound like work but cleaning can be very cathartic. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the fruits of your labor as you walk into the room you organized.
Learning Opportunity #10 – journaling
You can journal your thoughts and feelings about what is going on. Getting them out and on paper can be very therapeutic. You can also explore some interesting things you have always wondered. Finding a good prompt is the key to jumpstarting your thinking. The ones that tend to illicit the most thinking would be ‘what if’ scenarios. For example:
• What if you had to live for 18 months in your house?
• What if this is still going on, what will school look like a year from now?
• Do you think the environment will flourish or suffer during this time?
• What does Disney World look like with no one there?
• Who will be the heroes of this time when history looks back on it?
For other, more general journal prompts you can look at some at www.dailyteachingtools.com/journal-writing-prompt.html.
Learning Opportunity #11 – working on puzzles
This could be jigsaw puzzles, it could be thought puzzles such as Sudoku, logic puzzles, or brain teasers. Anything that is going to cause you to have to stretch your brain to solve is going to be good for you. If you would like to learn how to do Sudoku you can check out this Enrichment with the Gifted Guy which shows you step-by-step how this works https://youtu.be/K72NK6ImpBA.
Learning Opportunity #12 – finding an alternative to toilet paper
One of the unintended consequences of this COVID-19 is that stores don’t have much toilet paper. It begs the question of what happens when you run out? What do you do? What alternatives could you come up with for people to use? You could even think of it as an entrepreneur opportunity, what alternatives would you propose and how would you market it? What would a commercial for this alternative look like or a pitch on Shark Tank?
Learning Opportunity #13 – what would happen if sports had continued
Some people are lamenting the shut down of all major sports during this time. The NBA and NHL were heading toward the playoffs, baseball found its opening day delayed indefinitely, even the Olympics were pushed back a year. For those sports fans, can you imagine what would have happened had this delay not taken place. What teams would have made the playoffs and how would they have fared? Who would have been the hot team or players starting out in baseball? You could explore all sorts of scenarios here using past statistics and future predictions by experts. This it as a fantasy league of what might have been.
Learning Opportunity #14 – plan a dream trip
One thing people are longing for while stuck in their houses is going somewhere far away and just forgetting about what is going on. Why don’t you vicariously plan a dream trip to anywhere. Where would you go, how would you get there, what would you do once you get there, where would you stay, how long would you stay? There are all sorts of possibilities and you could sketch out the entire thing including the budget involved and what you would pack.
Learning Opportunity #15 – challenge yourself
The only person who is going to be able to challenge you during this time is yourself. The question you have to ask yourself is are you going to take the easy way out, or are you going to make the most of it and find ways to continually challenge yourself during these difficult times. Are you finding things to do that will require you to push yourself harder whether it be studying, working out, learning something new, or setting difficult goals? Finding ways to challenge yourself is the only way you are going to grow.
Learning Opportunity #16 – (ELA) read a book
Often times we wait for our teachers to pick our books for us. What if instead, you decide what you are going to read. Or if you are a voracious reader, what is a book or series you have always wanted to read but never found to time to do so? I’m taking this time to grow professionally so have selected several academic books to read such as The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey and The Intelligence Trap by David Robson. This involved the discipline of sitting down with your book for 20 to 30 minutes each day without someone having to tell you to or it being a required reading.
Learning Opportunity #17 – (math) figure out what supplies you would need for a 14-day quarantine
If someone suspects they have COVID-19, the recommendation is that you self-quarantine yourself for 14 days which is the length of time it can be contagious. Use math to determine how much supplies you would need in order to do this. What would be your must haves and wish haves for spending 14 days in isolation?
Learning Opportunity #18 – (science/social studies) analyze the spread of COVID-19
The spread of COVID-19 varied from country to country. It spread quickly through some countries such as Iran, Spain, and Italy, while the rate in other countries such as Greece, Iraq, and Singapore was much slower. Different countries handled the pandemic in different ways and got different results. Your task would be to analyze the spread of the virus and determine what we could have done differently, what we should be doing now, and what we will need to do in the future. If you need help getting started on this, I have posted a free case with resources https://myedexpert.com/item/containing-the-pandemic/
Learning Opportunity #19 – film your own YouTube video
If you have been learning a lot during this time and would like to share or have a special skill you would like to teach others, consider filming your own YouTube video. Doesn’t take much in the way of equipment and you can use a program such as WeVideo to film and edit. For example, I made a YouTube video version of this article which can be accessed at https://youtu.be/dTNUFI-44-8.
We often talk in education about the teachable moment. This is when something presents itself that wasn’t planned and you learn something from it. This COVID-19 is a teachable moment that we need to put at the feet of our students and encourage them to pick up for themselves and go with it.
This article was originally posted on edCircuit.