For months now, the narrative most kids have experienced is about the “can’t”...we can’t go to overnight camp or even the other day camp...we can’t have playdates...we can’t go on field trips or visit our favorite museum...we can’t go to the park or playground or pool...we can’t do this or that or this other thing...and whatever else you’re thinking is also off limits. And while things are slowly opening up, for most little people, the world is still full of so much “can’t.” Which is so hard for anyone, especially the little people around us.
As we look towards the start of the school year, it’s easy to continue this thinking and get caught up in what school can’t be, and we understand the safety and security reasons behind that, but it’s also important to think about what school CAN be. What do our kids need? What are the possibilities? What is the role of school in all of this anyway?
One of the main reasons that we started Einstein Academy was to focus on what school could be instead of what it has been or what it has to be or what it can’t be, and that premise continues even during a pandemic. So, for us, here is what school CAN be…
School CAN be a place for kids to be kids.
Whether it’s time on the playground or recess or just joking with a friend, kids need time to just be and to act like the five year olds or seven year olds that they are. They need to care about kid things like the bugs they find on the sidewalk or what kinds of clouds they see in the sky or how tall they can build a tower in this shape instead of that shape. And school can be that place, the place where they are appreciated for the inquiring, developing minds that they are, and encouraged to just be themselves and given the space and time to do so.
School CAN be a place to see friends and try new things.
For months now, most students have been limited to seeing their siblings or maybe a cousin or a neighbor, and they have had to be creative with school online curriculum and/or whatever supplies happen to be in the house. It has limited their worlds. Our kids miss other kids, and they miss being pushed out of their comfort zone. And school can be that place, the place where they are encouraged to think in different ways and to explore different ideas while connecting with peers and communities outside of the home.
School CAN be a fun place to explore questions and grow as a learner.
School can be fun, and learning can be fun. These were challenging ideas even before the pandemic began and are even more important now. While worksheets and Zoom meetings and pre-recorded lectures can be a way to move through the curriculum, it does not allow for students to explore in the same was a learner-centered classrooms can. And school can be that place, the place where students ask questions and build the tools to find the answers while developing skills and building content knowledge.
School CAN be a place kids can feel empowered to make a difference.
Even during (or maybe especially during) a pandemic, we need problem seekers and problem solvers in our world so that we can continue to make our communities better, and our kids are well-equipped to be those people. Kids need to be supported and guided in this process, however, given the opportunities and encouragement they need to navigate this process. And school can be that place, the place where students are encouraged to apply their learning to the real-world and make a difference, no matter their age.
School CAN be a safe, supportive environment.
We are not discounting the need to take precautions and minimize risks, so hand-washing and being outside and limiting class size are all important, but so is considering the social-emotional supports kids need and how to create that environment. Students need a place to feel their feelings and share identify their emotions and let everything else go so that they can be the best version of themselves. And school can be that place, the place where the main focus is creating that kind of environment for our kids so that all families can take a deep breath and focus on what else can be done.
During this time that is full of so many unknowns, we’re excited to be a known for kids and families. To give kids a place to look forward to each day. To give parents a place they feel supported as they navigate this pandemic for their family. To provide a little island of “can” amongst everything else.