By: Erin Gohl and Kristen Thorson

As people around the world have been asked to stay home in response to the pandemic and its impacts, familiar doors have closed, events have been cancelled, and routines have been disrupted. Families are struggling with how to fill the day while also continuing to offer their children memorable and fulfilling experiences. Fortunately, many individuals, organizations, and institutions around the globe have stepped up to this challenge and are making available resources and opportunities that were once only accessible with a membership or ticket fee or at a specific location and time. Award-winning illustrators are offering drawing courses and sessions; zoos and aquariums are broadcasting encounters with unique animals narrated by zoologists and marine biologists; and world-famous museums are offering virtual tours of their collections and exhibits.

As districts and schools across the country shift to distance learning, they are primarily focusing on supporting students in core academic areas. For families looking to broaden their children’s learning experiences or add variety to the daily schedule, the links below offer rich opportunities for exploring interests, delving into passions, and facilitating unique engagement with our broader world. These are vetted resources families might enjoy with their preschool and elementary-school aged children:

Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM)

  • Take your kids on an adventure (from the safety of your home) through virtual field trips from We Are Teachers and Discovery Education.
  • DK Find Out! offers informational texts about animals and nature, space, computer coding, dinosaurs, transportation, the human body, and so much more.
  • Amazon Future Engineer is offering free access to their platform where students in grades 2-12 can program a virtual robot.
  • National Geographic Kids provides games, videos, and open exploration to help kids learn about the world around them.
  • Science Fun for Everyone provides science experiments that can be done at home.
  • Cool Math Games includes puzzles, logic activities, and other math games.
  • Khan Academy offers content created by experts that include both instructional videos and practice exercises for a variety of subjects including math, science, and computer programming.

Social Studies

  • BrainPOP is an animated, educational site for kids that provides science, health, reading and writing, social studies, math, arts, and technology. To request free access, use this link. Visit BrainPOP Jr. (K-3), BrainPOP, and BrainPOP ELL.
  • Time for Kids is offering access to a grade-specific digital library that includes multiple issues. Once you register, you will receive an email that links to your library, which provides resources and articles designed for kids about current global events.
  • Visit the Smithsonian for kid-friendly art, history, and culture resources.

Reading & Writing

  • Scholastic: Learn at Home offers many digital books, resources, and projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and growing.
  • Harry Potter at Home: Wizarding World official website includes quizzes, games, and information for all Harry Potter fans to explore from home.
  • Story Pirates is a podcast where professional improvisers and actors act out imaginative story submissions from kids around the world. Children can submit their own creations through the Story Pirates website.
  • Several children’s authors are finding ways to connect through websites and social media. Peter Reynolds is sharing his books through virtual read aloud. Matt de la Pena is writing letters to students and families at home.

Movement & Mindfulness

  • Cosmic Kids Yoga provides yoga, movement, and mindfulness videos geared towards children.
  • Go Noodle offers quick, fun, and silly movement and dance videos that are perfect for a mid-learning brain break.
  • Download the Inner Explorer App to link to free mindfulness resources that include 5 to 10 minute audio-guided lessons.

Art & Music

  • For fans of Elephant and Piggie or those who just love a good doodle session, check out Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems. Tune in live at 1:00 PM ET or watch recorded videos.
  • The Laurie Berkner Band is doing live concerts most weekdays at 10:00am ET on her Facebook Live Page.

Inspiring Joy and Fostering Connectedness

These days at home managing distance learning, children’s emotions, basic needs, and general down time are incredibly challenging for children and families. As we miss the rhythm of our traditional school days, let us pause and find moments to appreciate new avenues for learning and exploration. Use these resources to provide breaks from more traditional work assigned by schools, to extend and explore interests, or to add levity and joy to family experiences. For within these moments, you might be surprised to have experiences that ignite new passions, cultivate stronger relationships with one another, or create pathways for learning that your child can build upon for years to come.

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Getting Smart has launched the Getting Through series to support educators, leaders, and families on the path forward during such an uncertain time. This series will provide resources and inspiration as we face long term school closures, new learning environments, and address equity and access from a new lens. Whether you are just getting started with distance or online learning, or you’ve had plans in place and have the opportunity to share your work and guidance with others, there is a place for your voice and an opportunity to learn.

We’re going to get through this together, and we invite you to join us. Please email Editor@GettingSmart.com with any questions or content you’d like considered for publication. We also invite you to join the conversation and on social media using #GettingThrough.

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