Category Archives: COVID-19

COVID-19: Week Four Activities

This week, I acknowledged the amount of energy put into creating an experiment every day. In addition to the stress of pandemic measures and the impact of isolation on the family unit, the addition of high intensity experiments was exhausting. I would like to take this moment to normalize feeling tired: we are going through a global stress and the various ways we may cope or not cope is physically draining. For me, the goal of homeschool is to create structure, opportunities to connect, and a place for curiosity to grow. It is a hub for connection and expression, where learning themes are only complementary to self-care themes.

Following the arc of grief, it would seem that the world around us entered a phase of mixed anger and sadness. We may have adjusted the first few weeks to having more freedom. This may have been fun or it may have been stressful. Both experiences are normal.

Now emotions begin to surface. This is normal.

DAY 16 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to explore ecosystems and our relationship to the land, framed by the question: how does climate impact life? The focus touched upon a bit of science around climate zones and food chains while the experiential brought us out on the land. We looked at how the carbon foot print or human interaction impacts the land.

Themes: science, land, health, relationships

DAY 17 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to explore biomes and interconnection, framed by the question: how does the food chain changed between biomes? They explored three biomes using virtual exploration and were invited to reflect the beauty of the land through art-making. During this time, we had opportunity to talk about our cultural relationships with the land as well as our associations.

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Themes: land, science, health, respect, interconnection, art

DAY 18 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity was a continuation of biomes and interconnection, framed by the question: how does life adapt to different landscapes? They explored another three biomes using virtual exploration and were again invited to reflect the beauty of the land through art-making. During this time, we had opportunity to reflect on our ability to adapt to the current world and normalize the different feelings associated to this.

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Themes: land, science, health, respect, interconnection, art

DAY 19 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity was the culmination of the week’s learning by creating a self-led project, framed by the question: how does climate change affect your biome? The children were invited to analyze a biome in any of the ‘Legend of Zelda’ universes (literally following their interests) and discuss how climate change impacts their world. They were then invited to create a diorama or artwork about this place, where we adventured to Zora’s Domain and the Gerudo Valley.

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Themes: land, science, health, respect, interconnection, art

DAY 20 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to travel which became important in light of being unable to travel. We have dedicated Friday’s to world exploration and art-making, framed by the question: where would you like to travel to and why? We looked at world geography and the seven wonders of the world as a starting point, exploring how each part of the world has its own rich cultural history. They were invited to choose either a place or wonder, explore via google earth or 360 videos on youtube, followed by the creation of our own travel passports. All aboard, the adventure begins!

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Themes: cultural humility, geography, history, art

Although the above descriptions explored specific themes, what was really explored was the power of adapting to the world(s) we live in. This can at times activate us in mourning what we have lost or are missing out on because of the pandemic. This can at times be projected onto different things and people.

The power we can have is to catch it when it happens. Notice when family members become agitated or we ourselves become agitated. We are grieving. We are adjusting. We are constantly regulation with or without thinking about it.

This takes energy and taking time to self-care or normalize these experiences for our children can be critical in helping them to maintain mental health.

 

COVID-19: Week Three Activities

This week I tried to base the theme around environmental science, guiding the lessons to wrap around Indigenous knowledge around land-based relationships as well as provide some curiosity experiments. The hope was to provide them with opportunity to feel grounded. Literally grounded in the earth during a time when the foundation of what we have all come to know as normal has been shaken.

DAY 11 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to explore soil health and planting, framed by the question: how does the land protect the people? The focus touched upon a bit of science around soil layers using edible sections followed by planting seeds to eventually transplant outside during warmer weather. We explored the cultural significance of planting and the lessons the land provides us of how to be with others.

Themes: science, land, culture, sustainability

DAY 12 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to explore rock formation and the cultural knowledge of stones, framed by the question: How do rocks change? The focus touched on the science of the rock cycle and the role of water while we explored the teachings and wisdom of stones. We exemplified the process through melting chocolate followed by taking our learning to the land to hunt for different types of rocks.

Themes: science, land, culture,  health

DAY 13 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to explore crystallization and erosion and was framed by the question: what is the relationship between earth and water? The focus was placed on experiencing these processes by eroding candy in moving/still water as well as creating rock candy in a jar.

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Themes: science, land 

DAY 14 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to further explore water by delving into the water cycle, framed by the question: how does water transform? Learning the science of water, we followed the scientific method to discover how we can create the cycle using household items. Taking a container, saran wrap, boiling water and an ice cube, we made it fog, cloud and rain. Today, there were smiles and laughter.

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Themes: science, land, engineering 

DAY 15 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to expand physical changes in matter to chemical changes, framed by the question: how do chemicals change matter? The focus explored a bit of science around solutions and was followed by an experiment using vinegar, baking soda and a balloon.

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Themes: science, chemistry, engineering 

Over this past week, I extend gratitude to the teachers who take time to tie lessons to activities. It brings about the importance of self care and leaning into your own needs as parents preparing these activities for your children.

Know that it is ok to not have the answers. Know that it is ok to model adapting to when things do not work out. Know that feeding curiosity is probably more critical during this pandemic than gathering learning themes.

Filling their emotional cups is the learning that can be had and gaining new knowledge is just a bonus.

Video Archive: Art and Mindfulness for Children and Teens

This 20-minute video (produced by the First Nations Education Council) leads you through an exercise for children in grades 4/5/6 that teaches both perspective drawing as well as regulation during frustration. It touches upon cultural spring time themes as well as visualization.

COVID-19:Week Two Activities

Into week two, the children continued to pick the themes for the week to which I developed and/or borrowed hands on projects to explore their teams. https://www.steampoweredfamily.com/ is an excellent resource to exploring multimedia learning for families. Adapting these activities for a grade 1 level included drawing about their learning and simply exploring the cause/effect of the experiences. Adapting these activities for a grade 6 level included response writing, note taking, encouraging application of knowledge to seek results.  Although two different age levels, the combination of play and reflection created a family environment that we could all engage in together.

I want to emphasize that we do not have to be experts in any of these areas and it is ok to rely on websites like BrainPOP to provide more concrete knowledge. Our role as parents in this situation can simple be to spark the curiosity of learning and exploration in our children. By delighting in their discoveries, supporting them in their challenges and giving them space to explore, we can give them the security they may need to both fall in love with learning about themselves as well as feel a sense of safety in the midst of uncertain times in the world.

DAY 6 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to explore dreams and was framed by the question: why are dreams important to our brains? The focus explored a bit of science around dreams using sleep, memory and and the brain. We then explored the cultural significance of dreams through access to the land and mindfulness strategies that help us to relax enough to fall asleep.

Lesson themes: science, culture, health, art

DAY 7 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to explore evolution and was framed by the question: why do living things change over time? The focus explored the science of evolution, including some colourful videos about Charles Darwin and Natural selection from BrainPOP. We took some creative time to explore survival traits by creating our own creatures and looking at how they adapt in different landscapes. We took our theories to the land and talked about the resilience of nature as well as the resilience of Indigenous People.

Lesson themes: science, culture, art 

DAY 8 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity brought us to light and was framed by the question: How does light move through the world? We explored the science light, refraction/diffraction, colors and rainbows through videos and hands on experiments. Gathering random glass objects around the house, we played with the movement of light and applied our knowledge into crafting our own kaleidoscopes using recyclable material.

Lesson themes: science, art, engineering 

DAY 9 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to sound and was framed by the question: can music be a science? We explored the science of sound, hearing and rhythm while touching upon evolution of music history and cultural knowledge. We then gathered recyclable material and played with vibrations and pitches. They ended the day by recording their own song to explore their experience of the current times. Hands on and individualized interaction with our children in open-ended exploration creates special places to talk about many things. While they may be learning tidbits of information here and there, what is happening underneath is that creation of connection, safety and stability. Hands on learning can be attachment building.

Lesson themes: science, art, engineering, history, culture

DAY 10 STEAM:

Today’s curiosity led us to explore cultural history from a different perspective. Inspired by the new found love for Anime, the children were wondering about the history of the craft. Covering an entire history of country in two hours of exploratory learning is not possible, but bringing some cultural stories, landscapes, art and moments of shared history can spark enough curiosity to learn more about different places in the world. What we can truly teach by following art is cultural humility.

Lesson themes: history, art, cultural competence

At the end of the week or even the day, we might find ourselves exhausted. This is normal. We are trying something new and it takes time to adjust; to adjust to children being home; to adjust to working from home or not working at all; to adjust to loss and grief’ to adjust to different ways of spending time.

Adjusting is hard work.

Take some time for you in ways that your are able to.

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Online art therapy services

Mindfulness for Children and parents

Within scheduling, it can be important to make time for holistic self-care. During the morning, I dedicate time to exploring daily self-care by using medicine wheel teachings. Each sector influences the other.

For instance, if we have negative thoughts, it may affect our emotions. We may feel anxiety, shame, doubt etc. These may the influence our bodies, feeling nausea, exhaustion and headaches. All of these impact our spiritual health, disconnecting us from each other, ourselves and the land.

Graphic made by the Anishinaabe Bimaadiziwin Cultural Healing and Learning Program

Physical: We take daily walks outside and follow online yoga videos (my youngest loves cosmicyoga on youtube). Dress for the weather (we are in a transitionary spring climate that shifts from -13 degrees to +16). Dress for the weather. There are so many teachings the land can offer (snow, rain, sun, wind). We take care of our bodies with nutrition and gardening. Yoga practices breathing and creating mindfulness is a good step to learning self-regulation.

for parents: take time for yourself to also walk with them or to follow your own exercise program. Model physical activity, which may inspire your children to do the same.

Mental: We make time to talk about our thoughts in the world, which naturally unfold when we make art and play together. The children have the opportunity to share their fears or musing about the future. We have made art and took time to process them. Additionally, by doing STEAM activities, they are exercising their executive functions like problem-solving, adapting and reflecting.

for parents: take time to talk to your support network and process your thoughts. Facetime, phone calls, text or online forums to practice safe social distancing while maintaining connection with others. Do activities for yourself too, whether that be work, reading or keeping a daily log. Journals do not have to be just for teens, we can use them too! Jstor has also made their database accessible to the public so nows the time to explore that one thing you have always been interested in:

Open-Access JSTOR Materials Accessible to the Public

Emotional: We have a dedicated time to explore emotional expression. Using art and a daily art journal (which we have always had), we make time to explore feelings. Modeling that it is safe to look at all our feelings, even if we are uncomfortable, is helpful for children to learn how to express. Be there for them and remember to be the secure base for them. If you feel activated, name it for yourself and allow yourself to be there. Feelings are safe.

For parents: Again, stay in contact with your social networks. It is ok to show vulnerability to children because it shows them that they can be vulnerable too. But be mindful of how we choose to regulate. Make art, breathing exercises, exercise.

Here are some free mindfulness apps: insight timer; smiling mind; stop, breathe & think; UCLA mindful; 10% happier

Spiritual: Each morning, we begin with a smudge and the Ohenton Kariwatehkwen (thanksgiving address). We practice spiritual connection when we connect with each other and the land.

For parents: spirituality does not have to mean religion. It can mean connection.

Although these are separated into categories, they often interconnect–especially when making art or spending time in nature.

 

COVID-19: Week One Activities

Schools Closed March 13th and suddenly many parents were faced with childcare and work-from-home responsibilities. Below were my weekly examples based on the interests of my children. I followed my guideline schedule to balance physical activity, mental/emotion health, online resources and hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) powered projects to encourage learning and connection.

  1. Physical activity and outdoor walks
  2. Mindfulness exercises and art-making (gratitude, smudging, breathing exercises)
  3. Online learning and physical sheets for math (IXL for grade 6 and Prodigy for grade 1)
  4. Lunch and leisure time
  5. STEAM learning based around a themed project (they select the theme)
  6. Outdoor play and leisure time
  7. Supper
  8. Family and game time (switch, board games, art, play)
  9. Bed

DAY 1 STEAM:

In the afternoon, we did a lesson on respiratory health using both online and book resources. We learned about the body and explored how we take care of our bodies. We explored our traditional teachings as Mohawk First Nations people through stories and medicine. Taking them outside, we laid down our tobacco and acknowledged the cedar. Cedar is used to purify homes and gathering spaces. Foraging through our cultural customs, we gathered cedar to make cedar tea.

Our ancestors used cedar tea to aid respiratory health and fevers but should not be consumed more than twice a week. People who are pregnant should not consume cedar tea. We collected the leaves, simmered in boiling water and sweetened with maple syrup.

Time to connect with the land and explore. There are many opportunities to connect earth science, physical science and mental health just through play.

This time of year is maple season and we honoured the maple trees in our traditional ways. They too are medicine.

Lesson themes: traditional teachings/history, health science, language arts, holistic health.

Day 2 STEAM:

In the afternoon, we explored the connections between math and art. For grade 1, we practiced shapes in both English and our Mohawk language. We built shapes using tooth picks and mini marshmallows to create a whole town. For grade six, there was also participation and some lessons on perspective drawing with some math angles.

Conversations emerged around mental health, safety and security. Creating together is a wonderful opportunity to connect.

Lesson themes: math, architecture, storytelling, art. 

Day 3 STEAM:

In the afternoon, we explored our carbon footprint on the environment using food chains and nature exploration. Using Brainpop (excellent resource), the children did some research on environmental science. They were invited to choose an animal from their backyard and explore their role in the food web.

 

Using a physical activity, they created their own food web using yarn and stools, playing with the idea of removing elements. They shared their inferences and together we explore the role of humanity. Pipelines, deforestation and over-hunting were explored. We ended the day in an exploration outside where they were invited to create a video documentary of food chains in their environment and the role of humanity.

Lesson themes: environmental science, social justice, art. 

Day 4 STEAM:

In the afternoon, we explored motion, physics and energy by creating a marble obstacle course using recycling. They followed BRAINPOP resources to learn about the history of motion and how energy states change. We applied them to our marble structure and explore how we can use motion to understand the world.

Lesson themes: math, science, history, art and engineering. 

Day 5 STEAM:

In the afternoon, these curious learners wanted to explore Viking history. As an art therapist in communities, I am always mindful of cultural safety when exploring other cultures. I took time to find reputable videos and sources from nordic cultures so that they were receiving knowledge. Like Indigenous communities, it is important to gather information from elders and stories from the community itself to minimize extractive and colonial lenses. Through videos, they gathered information and were invited to explore “a day in the life”. They created characters, oath sculptures and baked traditional bread.  For grade six math, there was the invitation to change the fractions (measurements).

We made links to our wampum and treaties with Viking customs. This builds connections with others.

Lesson themes:  history, art, math, cultural links. 

Two Row wampum– haundenosaunee treaty that states that Indigenous and non-indigenous people have two ways of knowing that co-exist.

How to make a COVID-19 schedule

As an art therapist and a parent, this suggestions come from both research and experience. Please note that there is no one-size fits all approach but feel free to use any suggestions that makes sense for your family.

I began with a basic structure, inviting my family to contribute to setting expectations and daily themes. This way, they become part of the process and their own learning. This can give children a sense of empowerment and self-esteem in knowing that they are heard. Self-esteem is critical to learning. If a child feels good about themselves, they will be more open to new information and challenge.

This is an example of our schedule. Although it seems rigid, it is not. There are times where playing outside takes an extra hour or times when the learning activity goes over by 30 minutes. There are times when math feels too much and we do a limited amount of time. I encourage play and flexibility and to follow the flow of the children. The age range is 12 and 7, so the schedule shifts based on their developmental needs as well.

Structure can help them to feel normalcy, stability and self-organization during a time in the world where everything feels unstable. It gives them a container to feel what they need to feel and to work through it safely with an adult.

IMG_3893Setting up the learning environment is also important to create structure.We chose a place in the house to dedicate to the “learning spot”. They gathered the materials they thought they would need and know where to go when it’s time for research or math games.

Although learning objectives can be important, remember to have time for unstructured play. Children learn through experience and we as parents can create teachable moments as we explore together. Connect, be with, and listen.

They too are grieving the losses that come with isolation. They have lost their friends; their school structure; their routine; their freedom; their sense of security in the world. Loss can often evoke complex feelings, which can come alive at different points in the day. Be gentle with them. Know that behavior challenges will be normal or that narratives of isolation or disease may come up in their play. Children process and express information differently, so when we are cued into to being a part of their play we may catch those moments to process with them.

Be there when they are challenged, encourage effort and model problem-solving. We do not have to be experts but we can create spaces of learning.