Through programs like Nebraska 4-H Youth Development and The Learning Child, Nebraska Extension has been producing fun and educational content for children of all ages to help alleviate boredom caused by social distancing.
Saundra Frerichs, science education specialist for Nebraska 4-H Youth Development, said Nebraska Extension has been providing information and support for coping with COVID-19 on its disaster education website and helping adults teach children through The Learning Child.
Frerichs said Nebraska 4-H Youth Development has been offering some virtual programming for numerous years, but they’ve expanded it in the last six weeks to fit the needs of Nebraskan families in order to help children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are currently learning from families and what they need,” Frerichs said. “I expect that there will be some more virtual field trips and virtual workshops offered during the summer, but there may also be some surprising opportunities that bring deep learning experiences or summer camp experiences into homes across the state.”
Frerichs said discussions between Nebraska 4-H Youth Development and Nebraska Extension began in early March, and by March 16, Nebraska 4-H Youth Development announced its new Virtual & At-Home learning page. On March 17, 228 households participated in the first workshop, according to Frerichs.
Linda Reddish and Lynn DeVries, extension educators from The Learning Child, said the Learning Child and Nebraska 4-H Youth Development teams developed a one-page electronic handout listing both of the programs’ resources for families. These resources include online classes, videos and activities for young children and school-age children.
Michelle Krehbiel, youth development specialist, is helping Nebraska 4-H Youth Development with families and youth cope in response to COVID-19. Krehbiel said although research shows strong families can manage crises and stress in positive and creative ways in order to take care of their families, it should still be a top priority for parents and adults to take care of themselves along with the children in their lives. Krehbiel said the Nebraska Extension team has brought together a resource page for family support and mental health for adults and families.
Reddish and Tracy Pracheil, extension educator from The Learning Child, said they’re collaborating with the team from A Beautiful Day in order to reach more families. A Beautiful Day is a virtual early childhood website aimed at connecting with children and families in Nebraska and across the world.
Reddish and Pracheil said the website is a place to share ideas, to foster learning and for children to still be able to play during social distancing. They said the videos focus on educational and fun activities and teachings featuring Nebraskan families, children, teachers and UNL faculty.
Reddish and Pracheil said every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. Nebraska 4-H Youth Development has new activities on its Living Room Learning series. Reddish and Pracheil said the series offers elementary-age children an opportunity to learn at home with hands-on experiences. Hands-on learning is important to help children develop skills they’ll need in and out of the classroom, Frerichs said.
Reddish and Pracheil said some of their recent sessions included creating marbled paper and using balloons to launch rockets.
“In just six weeks, Living Room Learning has reached 970 households in Nebraska,” Pracheil said in an email. “These activities are perfect for youth at home because they can be done with materials found around the house.”
Frerichs said a regular routine can be beneficial for helping children cope with a crisis and Nebraska 4-H Youth Development has been creating regular programming in order to create a sort of normalcy for children’s lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are finding that almost half of the families that participate in these virtual experiences are making it part of their routine,” Frerichs said in an email. “They are coming back each week for the next activity.”
Krehbiel said current world events like the pandemic can provide an opportunity for adults to help children develop healthy coping skills they can use throughout their lives.
“Giving young people the ability to bounce back after an adverse experience builds a young person’s resilience,” she said. “Building resilience helps children and youth develop social and emotional skills needed for them to become caring, connected and capable adults.”