March 15, 2021
How to keep kids inspired during the pandemic
By: Candy Wilder
Sadly, cancelled extracurricular school activities have been commonplace for the past 12 months. And it is adversely affecting our nation's students as isoloation from their peers is is physically safe but socially unhealthy. Perhaps yours are feeling the effects too. According to Developmental Psychologist Amy Learmonth, PhD, "Social development is important at all ages, but kids who are likely to suffer most from the impact of social distancing are those in late childhood and early adolescence.
Schools country-wide have a lot on their shoulders as they’ve been catapulted into a whole new territory that includes trying to teach students through virtual, hybrid and in-school learning environments. However, while meeting students’ academic needs has been a clear and understandable focus, a whole other side of the school experience is being largely ignored. Outside of curriculum, students like yours need those less-structured peer connections that are pivotal to their social and emotional development and academic achievement
Thankfully, the school in Clark County, Nev., where I teach, Thurman White Academy of the Performing Arts, has paired up with Cox Communications to transform our school’s annual play into an animated film. It’s a much-needed creative outlet. And I can’t wait for you to watch the film and perhaps, use it as a springboard for ideas that can help your students stay virtually connected with their peers, too.
Students drawn closer through technology
Cox Communications is using technology to ensure Thurman White Academy’s annual show goes on – albeit in a different form and fashion. Rather than gathering face to face, our middle schoolers rehearsed and constructed our performance from the safety of their homes. Students were fully hands-on throughout the process, even stepping into a virtual booth to record their lines. To top off the experience, the animated film will debut at a Hollywood-inspired online premier party where students will walk the virtual red carpet and celebrate with their fellow students and families. We are so fortunate to have this experience as our students have missed peer connections that, helped them stay linked, engaged and creatively inspired prior to the pandemic.
Help your kids carve out some creativity
Helping your kids connect with peers through creative, fun avenues is not only critical to their development but provides a sense of normalcy amid continued uncertainty. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Find out what sparks joy
The time is now to have your kiddos channel their inner Marie Kondo and talk about what extracurricular activities excite them and make them happy. It could be reading books, it could be painting, baking, eSports or playing Catan – whatever the activity or activities, this will give you a better understanding of what creative interests your children have.
Browse your options
Once you know what activities your child is missing, or maybe wants to try for the first time, start exploring whether your school, local associations, or businesses offer virtual or other COVID-safe programs for kids in your child’s age group. Virtual club fairs can give you and your children some creative ideas. It might be a little different to play chess or have a band jam session over Zoom, but it opens the door to peer connection again and that’s worth logging in for.
Create your own cyber squad
Not seeing anything that excites your child? Start your own club. Invite friends, classmates, neighbors, relatives – whoever makes sense – to join in the fun and enjoy some fellowship. You don’t have to spend a ton of time preparing a formalized meeting. Brainstorm an “agenda” with your child – i.e., if you’re doing a movie or book club, what questions do they want to ask to get the conversation going? If you’re starting a cooking club, what recipe will everyone make together? Then, send an e-invite out with instructions and schedule a reoccurring meeting to save the dates. Let the fun with your cyber squad begin!
You can help lessen your children’s feelings of isolation while stimulating their need to blow off some creative steam. And although they might not out-and-out thank you for it, they’ll appreciate you wearing yet another hat: extracurricular activities coordinator extraordinaire.
About Ms. Wilder
Candy Wilder is a Theater teacher at Thurman White Academy of the Performing Arts in Henderson, Nevada