Your kids are home from school, probably right through the end of the spring semester. They’re bored, restless, maybe a bit hyper, maybe driving their parents or siblings a little crazy. Left to their own devices (literally and figuratively), they’re maybe not motivated enough to go on learning constructive and meaningful things, the way youth are supposed to during their formative years. What’s a parent who never planned on being a homeschooler to do?
The good news is that there’s a great wealth of virtual resources for education out there nowadays, beyond the official distance-learning curricula that school districts are providing. Some preexisted Covid 19 – and if our dearly departed colleague, Kids’ Almanac columnist Erica Chase-Salerno, were still around to write this article, she’d have them all at her fingertips. Sadly, we’re soldiering on without her.
There are also a bunch of new places to look online for educational content that will keep kids’ brains and bodies engaged, created in response to families’ present needs. We’re seeing a number of Hudson Valley organizations, teachers, artists and individuals offering new classes and learning tools.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a selection of intriguing websites and social media hubs where you can find cool things to learn, with an emphasis on the locally sourced.
The Hudson Valley’s flagship public television station, Schenectady-based WMHT, lies a little outside our readership area, but is too rich a source not to mention right up front. The WMHT home classroom webpage offers deep dives into curricular material from the PBS LearningMedia archives in support of a variety of different subject areas each week, supplementing programs currently being shown during the daytime hours on the TV station WMHT World (virtual channel 17.3; on Spectrum NY cable, channel 1276). For example, Home Classroom learning materials for this week offer the following topical choices: Reconstruction; Cities of Light; The Black Experience in Business; Silk Road; John Lewis; Joe’s Violin; The Roosevelts; Amelia Earhart; The Woman in White; Africa’s Great Civilizations; Latino Americans; A More or Less Perfect Union; The Mayo Clinic; The Emperor’s Ghost Army; Decoding the Great Pyramid; Vikings; Horses; Telescopes; Robots; Cars; and Rockets.
It’s almost enough to make even a grownup want to go back to school, virtually. Learn more at www.wmht.org/homeclassroom.
If you were a regular reader of Kids’ Almanac, you may recall that Erica was always waxing enthusiastic about the offerings of Kite’s Nest, a not-for-profit organization serving disadvantaged and traumatized youths in the City of Hudson. Its work aims to be “regenerative and healing-centered,” and has always included both a teaching component and a strong afterschool program.
Now, in response to the coronavirus crisis, the daytime programs have transitioned to online Zoom-based classes, and Instagram Afterschool has replaced on-site programming. Free to everyone, this new structure features different activities and challenges daily: on Monday, a Puppet Talk Show; on Tuesday, Music Image Studio; on Wednesday, Obstacle Course; on Thursday, Wilderness Skills; and on Friday, “Space Feed” Teen Time. There’s also a new program in which afterschool teen staff are becoming digital pen-pals with younger students.
Center for Creative Education
If for no other reason, you’re familiar with the Center for Creative Education (CCE) as the home base of the Percussion Orchestra of Kingston –POOK – and the Energy Dance Company. CCE’s ever-vibrant afterschool programs have barely been scaled back during the current crisis. They’ve simply gone virtual, with up to seven classes per day presented live online. And that’s an ambitious undertaking, since much of what’s being taught in these workshops involves vigorous movement and musicianship.
Presuming that you don’t have a downstairs neighbor who’ll object to your kids jumping up and down on your floor/their ceiling, or even taking up Brazilian drumming, these should be well-worth the workshop fees. (There are more sedate offerings as well, such as Arts & Crafts, Chess and Acoustic Guitar.) Tuition prices range from $4 per “drop-in” for seniors to $95 for a Family Unlimited Membership for one month.
To see the full schedule for the rest of April, with links to sign up, visit https://cce4me.sites.zenplanner.com/calendar.cfm.
Want more ways for your kids to blow off steam indoors via physical activity? Another community-based arts organization, New Paltz’s Vanaver Caravan, is offering dance instruction via Zoom, for a suggested donation of $10 to $20 per session. Current options are Basics of Clogging & Percussive Dance and Intermediate Percussive Dance on Mondays; Modern Dance Workout on Wednesdays; and Dance Games & Stories and Modern & World Dance on Thursdays. Classes begin at 4 or 5 p.m. Coming soon: archival Caravan performances, live dance parties and special international dance classes.
To sign up, visit https://vanavercaravan.org/blog/onlineclasses.
Musical Media for Education
Besides being something worth learning in itself, music is a good vehicle for making other sorts of knowledge digestible and memorable for kids. New Paltz-based social studies teacher and curriculum developer Lance Fialkoff has been working for a while on a project that uses both existing songs and new ones specifically written for the purpose of conveying content about historical characters and events in bite-sized packages. Now, with distance learning suddenly mandatory, it’s an idea whose time has come. Geared for students and teachers in grades 4 to 12, his program is called Musical Media for Education (MME).
Fialkoff is currently in the midst of revamping his website, but you can get a taste of his approach on his MME~Social Studies Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/1505653686320102/?ref=bookmarks.
Math Tutoring with Misha
Does the memory of taking the Algebra Regents exam make you break out in a cold sweat? You’re not alone. If there’s a subject area where plenty of kids need extra help understanding arcane abstract concepts, it’s surely mathematics – especially when they get to the high school level and it’s not just about counting things anymore.
Misha Fredericks is a math tutor who charges her clients on a sliding scale, and used to offer free tutoring at the Gardiner Library to families who couldn’t afford to pay anything. “I tutor mostly middle school and high school students, and some college students in Prealgebra, Algebra 1 & 2, Geometry, Precalculus, SAT, ACT and GED prep,” says Fredericks. With the library closed, she’s now tutoring students via Skype, and offering up to three free hours per week to families who have no income during the coronavirus crisis. Call 453-8741 or visit https://mathtutoringwithmisha.com to learn more.
Unison Arts & Learning Center
Unison can’t currently host its usual art classes at its headquarters just outside New Paltz, but it’s staying in the game by making its website available for some virtual learning opportunities. At present, there are two series underway: New Paltz Art Studio at Unison – Online is being taught by Morgan Wells on Monday afternoons, geared to kids in grades 6 to 8. Create! Online, taught by Stephen Jacobs, is described as a “virtual creative space for students to create characters, stories, music, visual arts and more.” It’s offered on Thursday afternoons.
Both courses charge tuition. To learn more, visit www.unisonarts.org/kids.
Maya Gold Foundation
What about psychological coping strategies for youth undergoing the stresses of the Covid 19 crisis? The Maya Gold Foundation is halfway through a series of online sessions for Hudson Valley teens titled Tools & Teaching for Trying Times, designed to build resiliency, coping skills and inner peace. Each class includes guided meditations, storytelling, teachings on the science of the mind, reflection exercises and practical tools, followed by a question-and-answer session.
Registration for the free four-week program is full up, but, says foundation board member Elise Gold, “If there is interest, we will offer it again!” Keep tabs on future availability by visiting www.mayagoldfoundation.org or www.facebook.com/mayagoldfoundation.