The Great Kid Disconnect - Experiential Learning (EL) Activity Fun
As a teacher, I am very aware of the important role technology plays within the classroom. For grades K-12 and beyond there are a plethora of digital educational programs designed to enhance and enrich the learning experience. These programs are often promoted as the latest tool for a parent or teacher’s magic bag of learning tricks. Many are a truly great resource; while others, maybe not so much. However, in the end nothing takes the place of experiential learning or what I refer to as EL (code for fun while learning).
Good old down-home hands-on experience is an irreplaceable learning tool. So where am I going with this? The great kid disconnect, that’s where!
Now, before you get all worked up over how much you just spent on that new tablet, phone, computer, or gaming unit (trust me I know), let’s be clear – I’m not advocating that you throw them at a moving truck (at times you may want to), or that you dump them in the closest trash bin. I’m just saying that, from experience, it isn’t the same to build a virtual sandcastle than it is to actually hold wet sand in a bucket in the heat of the day, and manufacture the sand castle yourself. Living it is not the same as reading about it-right?
With the holiday break behind us, and spring break looming on the not-so-virtual horizon, here are some simple, inexpensive, ideas to try with your kids when they are home with "nothing to do" except spend time on their television, laptop, tablet, and phone. These activities can provide some experiential learning opportunities while managing to disconnect them from their near-neonatal virtual existence. Who knows what creativity might happen!
Picture Story Book for K-3
- Write a Picture Storybook – Provide little ones with a simple story line, such as: Mary went to the grocery store and ... Make up something strange or silly that happened along the way and insert it there. Or, Mark wanted to help his brother and he decided to… Let your little author's imagination run wild as they fill in the details. If they have trouble, help keep their story going by throwing out some of your own insane ideas.
- Materials Needed: Old magazines, newspapers, flyers, grocery ads, etc.; a pair of safety scissors; a glue stick; some blank printer or construction paper; stapler or hole punch, markers or crayons.
- How to: Fold three sheets of blank printer paper or construction paper in half to form a twelve page (double sided) book. On the bottom corner of each page write a page number to help keep track of which page goes where when you put it together later. Next, have them construct their story by cutting out available pictures, and adding origial drawings (stick figures are fine). For older kids, have them insert their own dialogue. Then, once they finish drawing, cutting, pasting, and writing or coloring, reassemble the book following the page numbers. Bind their masterpiece with staples, or use a hole punch and bind with string or yarn. Finally, have them share their work with friends and family through a read-aloud (facetime or video works great to bring technology back into the mix).
Embedded EL targets: Use of creative thinking skills, manipulatives, language skills, story structure, chronological order, and construction skills, plus!
Scene Play for Grades 4-6
- Scene Play – In Scene Play Children recreate a scene from a favorite movie, book, or game. Children make their outfits and scene props, and if time and materials are available, they can make the scenery for their recreated scene using household items.
- Materials Needed: Permission for use of clothes and household items to create their imaginary world; clothing, empty boxes, large plastic bins, anything around the house will do - imagination is key.
- How to and Presentation: Provide a start and finish time. Allow your budding actors a time and space to present their Scene Play to family and friends (record and prepare a virtual presentation to share with family later).
Embedded EL targets: Use of creative thinking skills, memorization, oral language skills, chronological order, construction and decision making skills, presentation skills.
Small Steps Project for Grades 7- 8 (With Parental Guidance)
- Small Steps Community Involvement Project – Have your pre-teen/middle school age kids create a one-week or less action campaign to address a small community need.
- Identify a small need – Children explore what their school, organization, sports club, or church might need by talking with their parents, friends, principal, PTA, sports group coach or team members, church group members, dance group members, etc.
- Decide on a Small Step – After identifying the small need, the child discusses with a parent some possible solutions to meet the identified need. They decide on one small step for action (action step).
- Create a campaign – The child (may enlist the help of one or two friends) creates posters and flyers to distribute, which clearly states the identified need and the step(s) to address that need.
- Materials Needed: Paper, printer, markers, highlighters for posters and/or flyers; other materials vary based on identified need and the solution.
- Set Action Days – Action Day 1: Create your Posters/Flyers, Action Day 2: Distribute Posters/Flyers, Action Day 3: Enact the identified step that addresses the need.
- Review the result – Child discusses the result of their Small Steps project with a parent or guardian to identify what they enjoyed and did well and what they did not enjoy or could do better (self-assessment).
Embedded EL targets: Critical thinking skills, civic skills, oral language skills, writing and computational skills, resource procurement, team building, print communication and mechanical skills (depending on final task).
So there you have it! The great kid disconnect is actually a great kid reconnect. It is a way for kids to reconnect face-to-face with parents, family, friends, and community. Although all of these ideas require parent and/or guardian participation or involvement, that too is part of the experiential learning process. I've included a link to a useful website that has many other artistic ideas with pictures to give you sheer inspiration, and a video link as an example of what one group of middle school students took on for community service. Happy EL!
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