Playtime: From online P.E. to Rick Steves travel classes, more ways to keep families busy at home

School’s in session with Rick Steves’ Classroom Europe.

Currently, there is a video chat happening in two different rooms of my house. The dogs seem hell bent on being involved in both of those conversations, taking quick breaks to make sure whoever is outside of our house is informed of their presence as well. One video chat is work related and the other is Xbox related, and I am trying to control that Venn Diagram to have the dogs and the Xbox chat overlap with the work call the least amount possible. It is reminiscent of “the baby who hasn’t been sleeping is finally taking a nap,” but with more “what is even happening?”

With the isolation involved in our current situation, more than ever, social media is how we’re relating to our friends and peers – is that a word we use? I was trying to not say “that person from high school that you mostly liked who is also a parent and hoping to keep their job, but also started multi-level marketing during a pandemic,” but it is definitely what I meant. I just can’t imagine a scenario where the people who’ve posted their color-coded schedules are breezing through this time while the rest of us flounder and amend and worry, while trying to appreciate some of the upsides to forced downtime with the uncertainties that come with the changes we’ve had to and will have to make. Just today, I got a group text announcing the “inevitable version 2” of their schedule as we shared our experiences in a safe place and I saw a post on Facebook with someone wondering if people were actually “homeschooling” their kids while working or if it was another filtered social media moment.

This week, Edmonds School District launched the second phase of their plan as their student learning and student services teams created a centralized, one-stop resource for students and families. This includes resources and recommendations on the Supplemental Learning Resources website, which you can find HERE. On this link you can click “Additional Support,” which highlights tools for students in special education, who require accommodations, as well as those who are English learners. During this phase, teachers will continue to provide enrichment and resources. Phase 3 is to “provide a robust distance/remote learning model” and per the most recent email from the district on the subject, they are working on guidance for the district’s graduating seniors as well. I’ve not checked out the “Supplemental Learning Resources” or “Additional Support” pages yet. My older son is still working on make-up work and the initial assignments that were about to be due, and we’ve taken this time to help my younger son learn how to type and get caught up on the book report that is due when/if we head back to school. We did add some math today, we’ll be needing an “inevitable version 2” of what that looks like.

There has been a new wave of ideas/resources to keep kids occupied during this time, and I’ve rounded some up here. In the spirit of not sugar coating the experience, yet not sharing all the worries I have in the middle of the night, I made some notes during our trial run at getting some exercise by watching a video by Joe Wicks, whom CNN calls the “world’s P.E. coach.” I saw a lot of posts in my feed about this London-based YouTube fitness instructor and how he is streaming kid-friendly workouts each day, and since we’re struggling to keep up with the amount of exercise we’re missing out on (school plus lacrosse and hockey, respectively), we’re looking for an outlet. This video was met with the excitement of all the exercise we’ve tried so far and that is to say zero excitement. Our selection was from Tuesday, March 24 and included a warm up, 20 minutes of different and mostly simple-to-do exercises in intervals and a cool down totaling roughly 30 minutes. A quick check back to this YouTube page shows that video has been watched over 3 million times. While the kids finished the video, I tagged along for what I could do with my recent knee pain rooted in walking without shoes too much (this is particularly embarrassing), it wasn’t without complaints or bribery. I made some notes of, and got clearance to share, the highlights;  “I hate this,” “I’m already sore,” “I want to go back to school.” And my personal “favorite” — the answer to the question “Why is your hair wet?” That answer? “I got it in the dog water.” I resorted to adding video game minutes if they just finished the video quietly and, for us, it really is about meeting their needs and making sure they’re tired enough to sleep. Prior to school closures, one of my kids was doing three 90-minute practices a week, plus a weekend game, and the other had daily P.E., plus three hours of sports each week. If you want to give this video a go, you can search “The Body Coach TV” or “Joe Wicks” on YouTube.

In about a month from now, my aunt and uncle were supposed to be in Italy on their second Rick Steves trip. They actually found out by booking their first Steves trip that he is based in the city I live in, and as a bonus I was able to head down to his headquarters and buy some trip specific presents for them that Christmas. Steves has provided an option for teachers and families who find themselves looking for “something fun and enriching” to watch. He produced a free tool to “give those kids a virtual trip to Europe while self-quarantined at home.” Classroom Europe is a website designed to creatively facilitate free online learning. Inspired by teachers, who first inspired him to “embrace our world in all its wonder and diversity” and those that tell him how they use his TV show in their classroom, Steves is offering this resource which “distills out of public television’s most-watched travel show 400 quick and easy-to-search video clips” which lets users create “custom playlists on European history, art, culture, and more.” Steves says he considers teachers to be “heroes” in our society and says “this tool is my gift back to them.” In addition to the classroom, Steves has made his entire library of travel programming available for free streaming at RickSteves.com and on this YouTube channel.

South County Fire has expanded its offerings with an online Kids Fire Academy. This week, they started adding “ fun safety activities on our website for kids to complete while they are home from school.” Each day they will have a safety video or activity and if all the activities in one week are finished, the student will become “an official graduate!” You can find more information on the South County Fire Department Facebook page or find more information as well as subscribe to Kids Fire Academy at SouthSnoFire.org.

I am on the email list for Play-Well TEKnologies since my kids have both taken their Lego camps before. Their most recent email starts with the question “Need a break from the kids?” before explaining they have some Play-Well Lego activity options available. They are offering Play-Well Live on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. on their Facebook page, Facebook.com/PlayWellTEK, though you can go back to the page if you’ve missed the live broadcast and watch it when it fits for you. You can also head to their YouTube channel, which you can find HERE,  and find these LIVE videos, as well as other offerings.

Erin Ashe and Rob Williams, Seattle-based marine biologists who run Oceans Initiative, are offering a Virtual Marine Biology Camp. The “non profit team of scientists on a mission to protect marine wildlife”  is offering this camp Mondays and Fridays at 11 a.m. streaming on both Instagram and Facebook. I think about my sister-in-law, a teacher who had dreams of marine biology and how this would have been an incredible resource for her as a student, in fact, I think she is the one who first posted about this option on Facebook. For more information on this virtual camp, plus links to coloring pages, you can visit OceansInitiave.org/blog.

I have been taking screenshots of the options I hope not to forget and I have two more science/science experiment options for you. “Science Mom,” a name Jenny Ballif got while volunteering in her son’s classroom, covers STEM related topics during her two hour “Quarantime” videos which you can find Monday through Friday from 8 to 10 a.m. on Facebook, @TheScienceMom or her YouTube channel, which you can find HERE.

In the Kid Quarantine Resources group I am in on Facebook, I saw someone on social media suggest Steve Spangler Science as an option for science resources. A quick trip to his website, SteveSpanglerScience.com, shows that he is offering “50 Experiements in 50 Days.” In his experiment library there are options for “World’s Simplest Motor,” “Sharpie Science,” and “Match Levitation” – that last one includes fire. You can also jump around his Experiment Library and find the experiments you are interested in and you can even view what is “trending.”

Since starting this column and getting the latest district email, we have received a flurry of school-related emails. It seems that there are more direct correspondence on the way with the guidance the state got from OSPI and the eventual addition of more remote learning. If your district emails go to your spam folder or if you’ve been too busy to read all of them, you might expect some more correspondence from your older student’s school.

— By Jennifer Marx

Jen Marx, an Edmonds mom of two boys, is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time.

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