I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.

The accomplishments made by educators these past months have been nothing short of extraordinary. We’ve transitioned from physical classrooms to a virtual space. Created activities and experiments to help keep curiosity alive. Empowered students with virtual PBL, and helped each other by sharing tips and tricks for navigating the new educational landscape.

In short, we’ve done good.

Rushing to the Fall

None of us know what school will look like when classes resume in the fall. In all likelihood, it could be a brand-new hybrid of virtual and classroom learning. As such, most educators are working furiously to prepare things in advance. We’re creating plans, on top of plans, on top of plans for anything we might face.

I certainly don’t want to discourage this kind of groundwork. They say luck favors the prepared and we’re going to need all the luck we can get. However, I do think it would be helpful to stop for a moment and consider things from our students’ perspective. They’ve already seen part of their school year get upended by COVID-19. Now, the same thing is happening to their summer.

Our students aren’t thinking about what projects they’ll be doing next fall. They’re mourning the loss of summer camps, family vacations, and regular outings with friends. They’re mourning the loss of summer.

Operation: Saving Summer

Educators understand the value of unstructured play. Through movement and discovery, children learn about the world around them and begin to develop as individuals. Healthy play can also help students acquire the social-emotional skills they need to maintain strong relationships throughout life. While many of us are concerned about the coming fall, we can’t allow summer to slip through our students’ fingers. So, let’s help them rediscover a little joy while also engaging in a little curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking.

Here four exciting ideas for saving summer!

Explore Nature

Encourage your students to spend time outdoors while practicing safe social distancing. Direct them toward a nature trail or a local park and ask them to use their senses to explore the world around them. What are they hearing? What are they smelling? Do they see any interesting birds or animals? Have them jot down their thoughts and wonderings in a journal and share it with the rest of the class when they get back. Then, work together to answer their questions!

(A few to consider: Why are there so many frogs croaking this time of year? Why do some flowers smell sweet and other stinky? What birds are unique to my state?)

Sign Up for Virtual Summer Camps

They may not be like the original, but virtual summer camps can still offer students a chance to explore, connect, and have fun with their friends. Van Andel Institute for Education is currently providing virtual summer camps that expose students to a variety of activities both online and off. From learning the secrets of animal adaption, to navigating the world of biotechnology, kids will get to think and act like scientists while making new friends in the process. Rest assured; this isn’t the kind of virtual they’re used to!

Build a Fort

Sometimes it’s best to go with a classic. Challenge your students to design a fort using the STEM principles they’ve been learning. Then, once a blueprint is drawn up, have them bring their creations to life! Younger students can assemble their forts out of pillows and blankets, while older students (with permission from adults) can attempt something more substantial using outdoor materials. Consider giving out badges as prizes for certain categories like “Most Comfy”, “Most Stylish”, or “Best theme”.

Create a Video

A lot of people are hungry for positive media right now. So, why not create something that will make a positive impact on someone’s day? Invite your students to create a video with you to spark their imagination and get them smiling. Take a page out of the recent TikTok craze and have students dress up as their favorite literary character or show off their best dance moves before linking them all together into one video. Do your students like karaoke? Have them perform a ZOOM concert while rewriting the lyrics of their favorite song!

It may seem silly, but these silly moments are what allow students to grow, laugh, and let go of their anxieties. Fall will have its own time. For now, let’s work on saving summer.

We hope you are all staying healthy and safe during this difficult time. For more free educational resources, or ideas on how to promote healthy SEL, simply follow this link!