It’s been over a week since the country withdrew into a self-imposed quarantine. As we all settle into our new routines, we’re discovering that human ingenuity is our best tool for navigating this difficult situation. In fact, despite the current troubles, many educators have risen to the occasion in spectacular and creative fashion. Teachers everywhere are giving lectures over videochat. Librarians are distributing free audiobooks to needy students, and our own VAEI staff is compiling resources to help children and parents keep curiosity alive!

Sure, things are tough right now, but it won’t be like this forever. As long as we lead students in keeping their minds and bodies sharp, they’ll be able to weather this storm with minimal difficulty. But what about their hearts? Long periods of isolation and stress can wreak havoc on an individual’s emotional health well-being. So in-between the science experiments and virtual tours, why not take a day to lead your students in some connective, social-emotional self-care? Here are just a few ways for keeping students connected:

Write Letters

Not every student has access to electronic resources, so why not start by going old school? Have your students write letters to their classmates while under quarantine. You can keep things simple and let them create their own personalized letter, or you can mix things up by introducing fun icebreakers or activities. Challenge them to write letters to a historical figure or their favorite literary character. Then, have them mail the note to another classmate.

If you want to make a difference in your community, you can also encourage students to write letters to elderly individuals living in retirement communities, or “thank you” notes to the doctors and nurses currently serving in hospitals. These handwritten letters will keep them connected to the outside world, and maybe even bring a little sunshine into someone’s day.

Take Part in Virtual Workout or Concert

Staying active is a crucial factor in mental health. Kids who are already stressed or anxious won’t improve their social-emotional health by remaining sedentary. With assistance from video resources like Zoom, Flipgrid, or other hangout tools, try leading students in a fun, low-resistance workout. Have one student guide their class in their favorite exercise before passing the baton (so to speak) to another classmate. A little yoga wouldn’t be out of place either, since it can minimize feelings of anxiety.

If a workout session isn’t quite your speed, there’s always the artistic approach. One school choir performed a concert remotely which has since gone viral. What other creative activities could your class brainstorm? Events like these will provide a much-needed dose of levity for your students and help them stay connected, even if they can’t perform together in person.

Visit Others (while Practicing Safe Social Distancing)

Until now, we’ve discussed ways students can stay connected through letters or video, but there really is no substitute for the human presence. While social distancing makes connection difficult, it is not impossible. We’ve already seen instances on social media where people visit each other by holding up encouraging signs from a distance. If your students feel so led, assist them in doing the same. They have probably never experienced anything like this quarantine before. If we can help them stay connected with their friends and loved ones, even if it’s from a distance, it will likely make all the difference in the world.

What about you? How are you keeping students connected?