With a new normal that feels anything but normal right now, keeping kids educated and engaged is essential. Here are some free virtual learning ideas to inspire, motivate and activate young brains and bodies.
Lions and tigers and bears and … llamas? Zoos, farms and nature preserves are still caring for their animals, so why not try an interactive science class? Locations like Newtonville, Ontario’s Haute Goat farm gives a glimpse into the lives of llamas and goats, with occasional special guest appearances by barn cat “JeffandSue.”
For more exotic animals, you may want to check out Wild Earth Safari’s live feed. The feed streams from two incredible reserves in South Africa and Kenya, and offers amazing access to African wildlife.
P.E. with Joe may be perfect if your kids need to burn off excess energy or get their day moving in the right direction. Joe, an exuberant UK-based gym teacher streams from what appears to be his living room, provides the perfect morning wake-up routine for kids who need to start the day off feeling good.
Are your young athletes missing high school weight training classes and dodgeball? They might be motivated to work out alongside the trainers who train their favourite athletes. Check out the Twitter or Instagram feeds of your kids’ NHL, NFL, NBA or MLS teams.
If your kids like superheroes more, consider Chris Helmsworth’s (aka Thor) lifestyle site, Centr. He now offers six weeks of free workouts, as well as health/nutritional tips, as a fun incentive to get us all moving.
The new math vs. old math debate may continue, but regardless of how great the divide is, finding ways to keep the subject compelling can tax even the most numerically adept parents. University of Waterloo — a world renowned post-secondary academic powerhouse — has you covered for Grades 4-12. Their Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing site has new printable worksheets (just like the old days!) and answers are posted the next day to help you look like a genius.
Netflix may never have seemed more essential, but don’t overlook Canada’s public broadcasting for content you won’t mind the kids streaming. CBC has an entire library of impressive Canadian-produced documentaries and National Film Board projects offering educational sources, no matter what the age of your at-home students. This includes a documentary following the life of a bee like 2007’s animated hit: The Bee Movie, or you can follow the journey of four aspiring young ballet stars to name a few of dozens of available films.
For high school aged kids, consider the wide selection of documentaries available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and CBC. For example, Living on One Dollar follows four millennials trying to survive in a third world country on limited means, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a compelling documentary about an 85 year old sushi maker in Japan and True North follows hungry young Canadian basketball talent as they try to make a name for themselves in the world of hoops.
Custom classes taught by leading musicians may seem like something once reserved for the rich and famous, but thanks to the necessities of social isolation, access to leading artists has never been more affordable — or interactive.
Max Kerman, lead singer of the Canadian band the Arkells, offers free live lessons via Instagram almost daily. Check out #FTCMusicClass (FTC stands for ‘flatten the curve’). Kerman even posts sheet music for more advanced participants to follow along.
Fender, the favorite guitar brand of major musicians from George Harrison to Eric Clapton and John Mayer, is offering 500,000 free three-month memberships to anyone wanting to try out the guitar, bass or ukulele. Whether you use your smartphone or laptop, kids can have access to lessons and playbooks.
Dozens of illustrators, comic book creators and visual artists have free online lessons available on YouTube or via Instagram. For an art-history approach to your at-home learning, kids can be introduced to the great masters; Picasso, Van Gogh, Miro via the websites of some of your favourite museums.
The fun instruction of Draw a Stickman (or stickwoman) lies in its simplicity. Young and/or reluctant artists will become immersed in this “choose your own adventure” style drawing class that works for all levels of artists. Young artists receive fun critiques (“Uh-oh, that balloon looks more like an egg!”) and the site allows users to spend time honing drawing skills.
Instructables, founded by former MIT Media Lab instructors calls itself “a community for people who like to make things.” From food to plastics to clay to electronics, Instructables has the right project for the amount of time, supplies and effort you have, including DIY projects for younger audiences.
Newcomers to Canada from kindergarten age to adult can try their hand at online learning via interactive ESL sites like ISL Collective. ISL provides guided-learning through a watch/query/answer video lesson style of programming, helping enhance language skills and testing knowledge in real time. Have limited access to Wi-Fi or a laptop? Print-out worksheets provide paper-based learning to keep learning alive.
Finding age appropriate and challenging online activities for kids may feel like a full time job right now, but don’t forget to tap your built-in parenting network to help source additional sites like the ones above. And even at home school, remember that everyone loves a recess break!
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