Editor’s  note: Spring break is over and it’s backed to home-based learning. Here are some thoughts from Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Education and a founder of the education nonprofit Challenge Success, about what home-based lessons could look like, the challenges some families may face and why a little downtime – even playing video games or watching TV – isn’t such a bad idea.

How are schools likely to carry out lessons during a closure?

Some districts might have sophisticated online capabilities, but many schools aren’t set up to do much more than have kids read something from a textbook or online and answer questions online or on a worksheet. For students who don’t have their own devices or internet access at home, the school needs to accommodate that, which they might just do by sending kids home with textbooks and a stack of printed worksheets.

But no matter how the materials are provided, I can’t imagine that schools will assign an amount of work equivalent to the hours in the normal school day and homework load. Once you take out the commute to and from school, recess, lunch and all of the interruptions, there’s going to be extra time. My hope is that we can use this time to get kids excited about learning things they aren’t able to do while they’re at school, rather than having them fill out worksheet after worksheet.

What kinds of assignments would you recommend?

When I work with teachers and in the curriculum classes that I teach, we’re always trying to come up with ideas to get students more engaged in a way that also makes the lessons more rigorous. Project-based learning is a good way to do that. It will depend on the age, the kid and their interest, but there are lots of ways to encourage a deep dive into something students are really excited about.

If you’re a physics teacher, for example, instead of having students read a chapter from a textbook and answer a problem set, you can give them something real to explore, like skateboarding or throwing a baseball. They can run some experiments on their own to try to figure out the physics behind it, about balance or friction or how distance equals rate multiplied by time.

Students may want to create their own video tutorials on something they love to do and include some background research. They could research the process for making chocolate or other favorite foods. They might want to interview an older relative or neighbor to explore their life history or their family tree.

There are so many resources online for project-based learning, free lesson plans that teachers and parents can use for inspiration. I hope that, in addition to whatever worksheets they assign, teachers will tell kids, “I want you to pick one project that you’re really excited about and go deep.” Because then it’s part of school and they’re getting credit for it and some guidance from the teacher on how to do it, but it’s also fun and there’s choice involved.

How much of a role do you see parents and families playing, especially if they’re not able to be home with their kids?

I know these closures are going to be inconvenient and have parents scrambling to find childcare, not to mention all of the food-insecure households that rely on school for meals. This is a huge issue.

But in the grand scheme of things – especially at a time like this, which can be stressful and scary for kids – this can be an opportunity. Teenagers in particular are so overscheduled, going straight from school to extracurricular activities or work obligations to dinner to homework to bed. This is a time where they can get more playtime, downtime and family time, which are critical to children’s well-being.

Kids need free, unstructured playtime every day and especially if extracurriculars are canceled, they’re going to need exercise. They need downtime, which includes sleep but also time to relax and decompress. That might mean playing videogames or watching TV for short stints, or just sitting and doing nothing so they have time to reflect, which is actually very healthy.

And they need family time. That can be challenging, especially if you’ve got working parents with double shifts. We recommend that one parent try to eat a meal or spend some time with their child between shifts if possible.

But as parents and as educators, the opportunity is that we can use this time to help get kids excited about doing things they might not be able to do when they’re at school. There are all kinds of things they can do that can help turn them on to learning during this time.

{ Be the first to comment }

Schools will continue to be closed through May 1

Seven Bay Area county health officers, in collaboration with their six county superintendents of schools have made a unified, regional decision to extend school closures and student dismissals from regular school attendance through May 1, 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible. The safety and wellness of students, school personnel, […]

Click to read more →

Community conversation about closing the school breakfast gap on March 9

Did you know that only 32% of students who qualify for free- and reduced-price meals eat school breakfast? If we close that gap, over 22,046 more students can start the school day fed and ready to learn. In fact, outcomes for students who eat breakfast include increased cognitive function, academic achievement, school attendance as well […]

Click to read more →

Alice Kleeman returns to M-A for a Parent Education talk on March 5

A lively armchair conversation, “Parenting Through the College Admission Process” brings Alice Kleeman, former M-A College Advisor, and Jim Rawlins, Director of Admissions at the University of Oregon to the M-A stage. Alice and Jim will share their views from three perspectives: high school, college, and parent. The talk takes place on Thursday, March 5, […]

Click to read more →

John Arrillaga commits $55 million to eliminate student debt at Stanford University School of Medicine

  Stanford alumnus John Arrillaga, a leading Bay Area real-estate developer and philanthropist, has made a $55 million commitment to the Stanford University School of Medicine that, together with other philanthropic and school resources, will help eliminate medical school debt for qualified incoming students. Arrillaga’s contribution was made as a challenge gift, which the School […]

Click to read more →

Early Childhood Education Forum with CA District 13 Senate candidates set for Feb. 9

Local nonprofit Community Equity Collaborative and Congregation Beth Am are sponsoring an Early Childhood Education Forum for candidates in the CA District 13 State Senate race on Sunday, Feb. 9. During this moderated conversation with the candidates, you will learn about their platforms and plans for elevating early learning issues and leading our state to […]

Click to read more →

MPCSD and local non-profits present screening of documentary No Small Matter on Jan. 22

Menlo Park City School District has long recognized the importance of high quality early childhood education for all families, and has worked to bring more options to its community with the opening of its preschool, the Early Learning Center, in the fall of 2019. While the ELC reserves spots for lower income families, more needs […]

Click to read more →

“Biased: How Unconscious Bias Shapes Behavior” is topic at Common Ground speaker series on Jan. 15

Stanford Professor Jennifer Eberhardt (pictured above left) will be in conversation with Julie Lythcott-Haims (right) to discuss implicit bias and how it impacts our society at the Common Ground speaker series on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 7:00 pm at Sacred Heart Prep (150 Valparaiso Ave., Atherton). Eberhart offers a powerful exploration of how unconscious bias […]

Click to read more →

Christy Heaton receives award for excellence in teaching economics

Menlo Park resident Christy Heaton, who teaches at Homestead High, is the recipient of the Bob Hahn Economics Teacher of the Year award. The Award is given in honor of businessman Bob Hahn, a longtime supporter of CASET (California Association of School Economics Teachers) conference. He became a generous donor for teachers wishing to attend […]

Click to read more →

Celebrating the teachers who received 2019-2020 Jeanie Ritchie Grants for 26 innovative projects

A celebration of the teachers who received Jeanie Ritchie Grants for the 2019-2020 school year was held last night. Both Superintendent Erik Burmeister and Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation founder Jeanie Ritchie were in attendance. This year’s grants totaled $39,000 and are earmarked for 26 innovative projects led by teachers and staff at four Menlo Park City […]

Click to read more →

Alums and students gather at Menlo College for 5th annual OAKtoberFest

On October 19, 2019, over 2,200 alumni and friends of Menlo College honored their connection to the school by playing hard-fought and sometimes hilarious alumni versus varsity games, dining at food trucks, watching student talent at an outdoor stage, and delighting in old and new friendships made through the College. Menlo College alumna Maya Sewald […]

Click to read more →