Providing Enrichment

Luckily, throughout the formative years of my boys’ education and development, I have been able to provide a great deal of enrichment outside of school.  In fact, if you have ever read the tag line for my blog, enrichment is mentioned.

“THE APPLES IN MY ORCHARD……..

a reflective blog about enriching youth through education, opportunity, family, and community.”

Education is changing; it has to. And, to be honest, the need for change has existed for a long, long time. It is too bad that the time for change has been thrust upon us. But, it has been and it is too late to lament that fact.

Many schools in our area are returning to educate the youth in our communities on a virtual platform. As I’ve mentioned previously, my family has experience with this. And, of course, due to that experience, I have opinions on it. However, offering my opinion is not what today’s blog is about.

It’s about that word….ENRICHMENT.  I do believe that schools are trying to do their best to provide education and educational opportunities to our youth. However, some opportunities will be forestalled due to the current state of the pandemic and need to follow school guidelines for reopening.

The opportunities for enrichment, however, still exist.  Some of the enrichment activities that might still work in a pandemic filled world for students are included in this post. I will try to stick with those that are of no or low cost. However, all of them need to have an invested adult to guide, supervise, and even orchestrate the enrichment.

Word Walls.

Up until 5th grade, I had walls in our kitchen and in our younger boys’ rooms, filled will a week’s worth of vocabulary words. They also doubled as spelling words. By the end of the week, especially during the summer, the boys knew the word, how to spell it, and what it meant. They could also use it correctly in a sentence. The payoff? Hopefully, a larger vocabulary and more interest in words, reading, and related subjects.

Trips to the Zoo.

This was something that we did with our oldest on a weekly basis. We were able to purchase a membership to The Buffalo Zoo when our firstborn was a toddler – preschooler. Weekly trips? You bet! There is a lot that can be learned at the zoo.

And, if you cannot get there due to the pandemic restrictions or cost, or if you are philosophically against zoos,  just put your similarly aged child in a stroller and get outside! Go to a park or along a river, or even walk through town. Talk to your child about what you see and STAY off your phone. Enjoy animals and nature and what they have to offer! Engage your child in conversation, identification, and indulge their curiosities.

Books.

I just spent the weekend with a friend that teaches first grade. We easily agree on many things from both a personal and educational viewpoint. One of those things is the importance of getting a REAL book in the hands of our children. Read to your child EVERY day!  This is something my husband and I did with all three of our boys every day when they were young.  Read to them and have them read to you. Share observations or wonder about where the story is headed. Ask questions that will increase their curiosity about the story. Make it fun!  Enjoy this special time together. If there was one thing I’d love to have back now that my boys are grown is the time we spent reading together. It is a precious time that goes much too fast! And, it is best spent with a “real” book, one they can hold in their hands.

Science Experiments and Life Science Explorations.

This is something that occasionally still might go on in our home. But, when our guys were younger, they included things like raising monarchs, collecting rainwater, hunting for toads, seed starting, and stargazing.

Stargazing was revisited this weekend at our cabin when our oldest got out our binoculars and telescope.  He, even at 25 years of age, continues to be interested in viewing the planets and constellations.  There are a plethora of books on the subject for all ages. And, this is something that can be well supported by technology too!  I relished in my son’s ability to share his interest, curiosity, and even awe with the eight-year-old son of our friends this past Friday night. Jupiter’s moons were seen through our equipment. But, even if one does not have binoculars or a telescope, learning about the night sky through a book or app and then getting to stay up late to actually view them is a worthwhile enrichment experience.

Growing Vegetables

Two years ago I helped a neighboring district hold a summer school lesson for pre-k to second grade on food and where it comes from. I was somewhat shocked that most young children think our food comes from the grocery store (literally).  Given that misinformation,  you can only imagine that they do not know what plant parts we eat, either!

Seed packets are cheap. It’s important that our children understand that food has to be grown. The best way to understand this is to grow some food! Even if you live in an apartment, this can be done. A pack of lettuce seeds, a pot, and some potting soil would be all you need to grow lettuce leaves on a sunny front porch stoop or deck. You don’t need acres of land to grow some of your own food.

And, this is an interest or enrichment area that can grow and grow and grow, just like the plants! It’s called sustainability or sustainable living for those that want to learn more or go into more depth. This can be expanded to cooking, canning, preserving, and even things like hydroponics and aquaponics, if more time and money are available.

I remember the pride on my oldest’s face when he had on an eggplant on a plant he started from seed! Other possible subjects or areas for enrichment are:

Origami –

math, angles, geometry, inexpensive

Sewing –

unit conversions, fractions, making a product.

Sorting –

counting, shapes, math.

Building –

popsicle sticks, toothpicks, bricks, legos, k’nex, or anything!

Fishing –

types of local fish, how a fishing pole works, proper casting, fish anatomy

Music –

lessons outside of school, extra practice time, adding instruments

Providing Enrichment

Enrichment. It can be what you want it to be, as long as you are learning, exploring, and satisfying the curiosities and questions of our youth.  These are all simple ideas that we’ve gotten away from as a society. Educational communities have long stayed away from the skills we need to live well and instead focused on what was needed for our children to “test” well. We can use this time, and, hopefully, the temporary platform of virtual learning to restore some enrichment and life skills to the lives of our children. It is about time we spend more time on things that matter more than a test score.

And, ironically, what I have observed about enrichment is the more that it is given to youth, the better the youth who partake in it do in school and in life.  Not surprisingly, all students benefit from enrichment, but those that often benefit the most are those that need or seek more challenge.

In truth, this is why I offered it to my boys and to other youth in our community. I wanted to provide a way to extend learning, making it fun and applicable to the lives of our students. With the virtual platform being the platform of choice this fall for many public schools, here and across the country, enrichment should be part of what children experience, for virtual education is not meant to take place for the same amount of time as a traditional school day.

So get out and enrich your child today! They might even thank you for it years from now!

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