As children return to face-to-face schooling, pandemic-related mental health problems like stress, anxiety, depression, and isolation may become a part of the new normal in classrooms across the US. In 2020, more parents reported children with mental health problems compared to the year prior, and a 31% increase in visits to the emergency room for mental health issues among adolescents. It’s clear that the pandemic-blues won’t go away easily; grief, fear, and trauma from the previous years may prevent students from re-entering school safely and with confidence.
Despite uncertainties, many parents, mentors, and educators are (fortunately) tapping into different avenues to help students. Liberal studies, in particular, are being eyed as an avenue essential to a child’s holistic development during this challenging time. A well-rounded liberal studies program would include history, philosophy, art history, literature, social science, and other areas related to modern culture. Studies in humanities would allow children to understand what it means to be human, and to develop a highly versatile skill set for our ever-evolving society. These subjects would foster creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking. Here are some kid-friendly liberal arts projects to try:
At the height of the lockdown, ZIPIT offered free downloads of our Drawing Easily Digital Booklet, which taught children how to get better at doodling Easter motifs, sea creatures, horses, and other everyday objects. We saw firsthand how drawing kept children creative and happy during a very stressful time. Drawing is a natural form of self-expression that helps ease worries, process heaviness, and heal trauma by activating our flow state — a period of optimal attention towards a task. Educators can allow children time to draw freely or purposefully, like designing cards for each other, which also opens up a new way for kids to build connections.
Drama, dance, and music are activities that provide children with a sense of agency, because they’re free to take something chaotic and create order out of it. Songs, in particular, are powerful instructional tools. Often, an elementary music curriculum would include singing together in class and learning to play instruments like the recorder; by approaching education in multiple modalities, students can better retain information and understand their emotions. Over the pandemic, music transition was limited to online programs for music lessons, band practices, and choir groups. Now, educators can guide children through group songs, albeit with masks and social distancing. A simple way to incorporate music appreciation in daily lessons is to have students tapping their feet together, singing along, or watching videos that feature different genres.
Early in 2020, we reported how Makayla Cook, 11 years old, was writing a book about her favorite friends “The Bobs”, inspired by ZIPIT and monster love. Children flexing their imagination through writing has become a welcome outlet during the pandemic, keeping young students engaged with homeschooling. Writing — be it fiction, poetry, or journal entries — helps students with emotional release and gives them some control over their anxieties. By providing prompts or starting phrases, teachers can inspire students to put their thoughts to paper.
According to consumer reports, online parenting forums, blog posts, and Google trends, arts and crafts served as a coping mechanism during the stay-at-home directives. Parents and cultural institutions shared advice, resources, and content to occupy children with creative enrichment. Arts and humanities will continue to play a role in education as students come back to school, probably through the form of crafting. Sensory activities where children can manipulate materials boost their self-esteem, self-expression, and sense of control. They have a project they can work on at their own pace, completed according to their standards. Educators are recommended to teach the skill and focus on technical aspects, but allow children to decide on what kind of project they wish to create. The emphasis should be on the process, rather than the product, so children can develop original ideas and learn from their own mistakes.
Written by Taylor Scott for just-zipit.com