We are just over a month into Russia’s unsanctioned attacks on Ukraine. After two years of isolation and uncertainty from COVID, we are entering another unique era of navigation.
Students of all ages are being exposed to images and content from the war on TV, and online through social media. Even young students who you assume would not be exposed to this content may overhear conversations, or notice a shift in mood from parents/guardians.
In every classroom, there is likely a family or cultural connection to Ukraine between students and staff. There are also students with family in the military, who may be exposed to the happenings in war or fear the departure of family if the situation escalates.
For this reason, it is important to address and provide resources for students to express their feelings and worries. To address social and emotional learning (SEL), students need to talk about how they feel, what they’ve seen online, and how it impacts their emotions. These are difficult conversations to navigate, so we wanted to provide you with resources to help both educators and parents help children better understand and express their emotions.
The video linked here provides expert information from Amanda Heins, PsyD, supervising psychologist for the OCD and general Anxiety Center Adolescent Residential Care, on how to discuss the war in Ukraine with children. They acknowledge the parental concerns regarding what children may be seeing or hearing about the war and encourage parents to approach children with curiosity, while monitoring what they are looking at on social media.
This article from EduTopia outlines 10 strategies to help students cope with violence. Some examples include discussing students fears, doing risk analysis, and writing letters to victims or to political leaders.
This article shares an online initiative classrooms can participate in to share their artwork. #KidsDrawPeace4Ukraine encourages kids to draw messages of hope for students in Ukraine, which can help ease the sense of helplessness many students are currently feeling. Art has also been shown t relieve anxiety and help in expressing painful or difficult feelings.
Art is used as a means of relief in many scenarios by distracting the mind from other worries. Students may feel helpless during this time, and find comfort in an activity that they feel will help in some way. Peekapak encourages you to create messages of optimism on paper, online, or other creative means. Feel free to share your classroom artwork online, tagging us!
Because this is shared online, do not put any identifying information on the artwork
The Peekapak team looks forward to seeing your classrooms/child’s artwork sharing messages of optimism!
Find more useful strategies and resources to discuss the ongoing world events here, from the San Diego Office of Education .
March is Women’s History Month, and we at Peekapak want to recognize Women Leaders in the Education Space by highlighting the accomplishments of women throughout history. Every woman is a champion in our eyes but we have highlighted four key women that have made a large impact on the education space, paving the way for others.
Lucy Wheelock, Kindergarten Advocate
Lucy Wheelock was raised in Cambridge, Vermont during the mid-late 1800’s. She was fortunate to be raised in a household passionate about education, and had a variety of opportunities to learn. The introduction of kindergarten was a huge question for debate in the 20th century – do we expand education to 5 year olds? With the idea of kindergarten being introduced in Germany, educators were unsure what type of instruction should be introduced in North America. The idea of introducing play-based learning was foriegn and unknown. They needed a leader to bridge the gap between over-structured learning, and play based learning. Lucy stood up to the challenge and facilitated psychological learning for educators and took educators to Germany to witness their transformed kindergarten classroom. As the president of the International Kindergarten Union, she continued to co-author a groundbreaking report that created a middle ground between traditional and soon to be modern kindergarten. Wheelock’s efforts combined with her charming personality helped transform kindergarten through play activities.
Savitribai Phule, First Female Teacher in India
Savitribal Phule is known for her astonishing role as the first female teacher in India. Her story begins growing up in the small village of Maharashtra in 1831. She was married at the young age of nine to Jyotiba, unable to read or write. Her husband strongly believed in education and eliminating social inequalities, so he taught her how to read and write, which was illegal at the time. After years of learning and attending teachers training, Savitribal and her husband started the first Indian-owned girls only school. It started small, with nine girls, but grew to multiple schools with over 150 girls altogether. The high enrollment of girls angered orthodox upper-caste Hindus (or conservitive communities), so they tried to close these schools. They started rumours about Savitribai, bombarding her with cow dung, eggs, tomatoes on her way to school. This did not discourage Savitribai and her husband, as they opened a total of 18 schools for girls across Maharashtra. Her courage and dedication to women’s education will be remembered forever.
Malala Yousafzai, born July 12, 1997, was raised in a small town in Pakistan. Her father wanted her to have the opportunity to be educated, so he ran an all-girls school. However, when the Taliban took over in 2007, women’s rights were restricted in society – including their right to attend school. The Taliban shut down all girls schools and imposed suicide bombings on the areas. Malala’s family was forced to flee to safety temporarily but returned when tensions eased. Her father took her to the press shortly after where she spoke out publicly about her experience. She continued to gain traction about the issue through journal entries to the press, TV appearances, even appearing in The New York Times. She quickly became the target of the extremist group, and was shot on a school bus. Fortunately, she survived and was flown to England. This gained global attention, and sparked a petition for children around the world to be back in school by 2015, that led to Pakistan’s first Right to Education bill, and a $10 million dollar fund in Malala’s honour. She went on to continue her activism and won the Nobel Peace award in 2014, at the age of 17!
Dr. Hayat Sindi
Dr. Hayat Sindi is an active advocate for science education among young women from the middle east! She is passionate about biotechnology in developing regions. Growing up in Saudi Arabia, she did not have access to the same education as men did. Not only is there a gap in education, but developing regions have limited access to proper healthcare, and technology. She grew to become the very first female from the Persian Gulf to earn her doctorate degree (attending both Harvard and Cambridge University may I add). She continues to con-found a non-profit that creates low cost devices to diagnose diseases on-site using a biochemical sensor she invented. She also founded the Institute for Imagination Ingenuity, which pushes for science education in the younger generation. If anything, she hopes she inspires girls to pursue a career in science!
Peekapak supports women across all fields whether it be education, science, trades, and anything in between. Our Peekapak characters are diverse with interests in STEM, debunking ‘girl’ personalities. This Women’s History Month, take some time to reflect with yourself, or your classroom on the impact women have made to the society we live in today.
National Geographic Society. (2019, July 30). Explorer profile: Hayat Sindi, biotechnologist. National Geographic Society. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/explorer-profile-hayat-sindi-biotechnologist/
Remembering Savitribai Phule. The Indian Express. (2021, January 3). Retrieved March 15, 2022, from:https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/savitribai-phule-education-feminism-women-empowerment-7131478/
Stringer, K. (2018, March 19). Meet Lucy Wheelock: How an early-20th-century educator saved kindergarten for generations of U.S. Kids – & Founded Her Own College. Meet Lucy Wheelock: How an Early-20th-Century Educator Saved Kindergarten for Generations of U.S. Kids – & Founded Her Own College. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.the74million.org/article/meet-lucy-wheelock-how-an-early-20th-century-educator-saved-kindergarten-for-generations-of-u-s-kids-founded-her-own-college/
Trubiano, S. (2021, March 8). Celebrating 8 influential women in education for international women’s day. Saga Education. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.sagaeducation.org/blog/2021/3/8/celebrating-8-influential-women-in-education-for-international-womens-day
Looking back on your schooling, what do you remember about Black history? Rosa Park’s civil rights movement by refusing to give up her bus seat? Martin Luther King’s revolutionary speech? Although these are important civil rights events, there is much more to educate children on with regards to Black history. Black history is honoured all year but the dedication of Black History Month creates an opportunity for educators to highlight the successes and importance of Black history. It is always important to remember Black history is world history too.
The 2022 Black History Month Theme is Black Health and Wellness. This theme is meant to encourage individuals to explore the contributions of Black professionals as scholars and medical practitioners. Not exclusive to Western medicine, the theme encourages recognition of non-traditional health and wellness such as birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths etc. (Black History Themes, 2022)
Now, how do we take this information into the classroom? Read below for 7 meaningful ways you can celebrate Black History Month in your classroom.
Lessons are important to relay information but allowing students the space to discuss and ask questions is where they can solidify topics. Students can build off of their peers and learn more through discussions. Creating a safe space for students to feel comfortable asking and answering questions is important. Start off with asking questions such as:
What does Black history mean to you?
How do you think this person felt during that time?
What can you do to encourage equality?
Black History Treasure Hunt
A great activity to implement in the classroom is a Black history treasure hunt. Using internet searching, students search for the correct answer to a historic question. There are modifications for different grade levels and difficulties. This is a great activity to engage students and get them excited about finding the information and competing with peers.
Invest in Black Authors Texts
In New York, more than eight out of ten books students are shown in class are written by White authors. (Diverse City, 2020) Students need to be introduced to more Black authors as they speak to Black perspectives and experiences. Here is a list of engaging and interesting books to read to your class!
Quote or Fact of the Day
Every morning, have a new relevant fact or quote for students to read and explore. This can be done by posting it around the classroom, online or both! This can trigger a discussion about the importance or history of the statement.
Person of the Day/Week
There are so many prominent Black figures both in today’s society and throughout history. Taking the time to educate and learn more about their significance with your class is a great way to engage students. This does not have to be exclusive to huge celebrities or large historic figures – Look at other contributors such as writers, athletes, politicians, heroes, scientists etc. to broaden students’ knowledge.
Arts and Crafts
Who doesn’t like arts and crafts? A great way to allow students to be creative while educating themselves on Black history and culture is through art. To further the lesson, try including a discussion on Black artists and their pieces of work. Here is a list of relevant crafts to try out in your classroom.
Facilitate a Class Project
Assign your classroom a month-long project of their choice that highlights the importance of a Black figure or movement. Allow students to do independent research then collaborate to create a poster, powerpoint, or bulletin board!
We hope these resources will be beneficial in your classroom and in educating both your students and yourself. Black History Month is a critical time for reflection and we hope you can continue to use these resources and lessons beyond the month of February.
Black history themes. ASALH. (2022). Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://asalh.org/black-history-themes
Happy Monday Peekapak friends! Urg another week, am I right? Another week of virtual or wait- in person school? I can’t keep track at this point. These Winter months are tough for students, not to mention the ever-changing learning environment. So now is a perfect time to implement new mindfulness activities in the classroom!
So what is mindfulness? In the chaotic rush of a typical day for children on the bus, the classroom (virtual or in-person), or at home, children can easily become overwhelmed, distracted, and unfocused. Mindfulness is the act of becoming fully aware of your body, what is around you and how you feel. It is essentially a way to practice self-regulation and reset the mind to resolve underlying emotions.
Why is Mindfulness Important?
By taking a few minutes to practice age-appropriate mindfulness activities, children can show increased mental health through decreasing anxiety and promoting happiness. By just simply taking a moment to recognize their breathing, students strengthen their emotional regulation, show higher cognitive function, and can demonstrate improved behaviour in classrooms. Like any habitat, students who learn mindfulness activities at a young age will continue throughout adolescents, helping with the changes that come with growing up. It can help children go from a fixed mindset, to a growth mindset and feel comfortable taking risks, and improve performance.
How to Implement Mindfulness Activities in the Classroom
There are a variety of breathing exercises available for all ages. You really cannot go wrong with breathing exercises as they are effective for both simple and complex activities. From the most basic standpoint, just focusing on inhaling and exhaling in a comfortable position will release overwhelming emotions. The article linked here does a great job in explaining different mindful breathing exercises for all different ages.
For primary grades, using belly buddies is a great way to integrate mindfulness into classrooms with a spark of creativity. For this mindfulness activity, each student is given a rock and appropriate time to paint and customize their rock. The rock allows students to have a tangible item to visualize their breathing with the activity. Students will lie on their backs with their ‘belly buddy’ directly on their stomach and be instructed to watch it rise and fall with their breathing. Students will focus on allowing air to fill their stomach and re-centre themselves.
Another creative exercise is focused on having students become aware of their heartbeat and breathing. Ask students to do one minute of jumping jacks, skip rope, or simply jumping up and down. Have students place their hand on their heartbeat and become aware of how it feels, how fast it is, and how it makes them feel. By focusing on their body movements, they will unintentionally become refocused and refreshed!
We hope you find these activities useful in the classroom, whether it be in-person or remote! We are always open to suggestions for new mindfulness activities. Remember mindfulness extends beyond just students and to take a mindful minute for yourself 🙂 Be sure to follow our socials to keep up to date with the most recent Peekapak news and feel free to tag us in any mindfulness activities you try out!
With the recent development and spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, many schools are shutting their doors once again. To help with this shift to virtual learning, we have put together an updated list for 2022 of recommended, free virtual learning resources to support school, students and families during this uncertain time.
Free Virtual Learning Resources For Elementary Students
Free Math Resources
Zearn: Zearn is a free virtual learning math platform built by teachers, for teachers. It’s based on the premise of students learning the same concept twice – once from the educator, and again in Zearn’s researched backed digital lessons. Provides 800+ interactive lessons, comprehensive reporting and built in professional development.
Boddle: Boddle is intended for grades K-6, with the goal to make math fun and engaging. This free virtual learning math resource leverages artificial intelligence to tailor learning content to the correct level for each student.
Khan Academy: Khan Academy has one of the best sites for free virtual learning for math with self-pacing content for students.
Free Science Resources
Mystery Science: Mystery Science returns to our list for 2022! They continue to offer their most popular science videos for anyone to use for free. Copy and paste the links into your documents and use them however they might be helpful! They’ve also curated a starter set of science lessons that you can use remotely or share with parents.
Free Reading & Writing Resources
IXL: IXL is a free online personalized learning resource for ELA. IXL provides a comprehensive curriculum for JK to grade 12, helping students master essential skills, from reading comprehension to writing strategies, through interactive questions, with built in support and motivating awards.
Newsela: Engage students virtually with thousands of texts on topics they care about most, with standards-aligned lesson supports built for ELA instruction. Prepare for virtual learning with their free access level: www.newsela.com
Evergreen: Evergreen offers a free collection of curriculum that aims to support the outdoor learning practices throughout Canada.
Free Social Emotional Learning Resources
Peekapak:Peekapak is a social-emotional learning platform that helps elementary students learn skills like self-regulation and empathy through digital stories, research-based lessons, and personalized learning games that align with required reading and writing-based curriculum. To sign up to access Peekapak’s self regulation unit, click here: https://www.peekapak.com/remote
Peekapak has also created specific free virtual Coronavirus lesson plans and family activities about the pandemic. Lessons help children understand their feelings during this time, practice gratitude to our frontline workers and create their own special space at home. Learn more here: http://blog.peekapak.com/coronavirus-lesson-plans/
Free Coding Resources
Code Combat:Code combat is a game based learning solution that aims to teach children computer science from an early age. It teaches both game based coding and text based coding. Their curriculum builds on student’s experiences and knowledge as they progress throughout the game.
Blockly: Blockly Games is a series of free virtual learning games that teach programming to young kids. The games are designed for children who have not had prior experience with computer programming, teaching them from the ground up. The games are in sequential order to teach skills from loops and conditionals to functions and more.
Free Social Studies Resources
Mr NussbaumLearning and Fun: This game based website provides activities in all subject areas, created by an educator who believed that crucial ideas taught in the classroom can be enhanced online through interactivity. It specifically provides both history and geography games, perfect for increasing student engagement in a social studies course.
Lizard Point: Lizard Point is a great interactive tool to help elementary students learn geography through map based quizzes.
Mental Health Resources
PBS Learning Media: PBS Media separates their lessons by grade level, discussing aspects of personal, mental and emotional health with a variety of resources to teach the importance of these subjects. They encourage youth to make positive choices for their mental and physical health.
Additional Helpful Resources for Educators and Families:
A couple of other helpful guides we’ve found online to help educators and families with free at-home learning:
Mr. Malone’s At-home Learning: A suggested schedule and list of resources and guidance for families continuing to support virtual learning. It’s recommended for Upper Elementary and Middle Grades. We love the morning mindfulness and journaling activity to help students reflect on how they are feeling throughout this experience. Check it out here.
Khan Academy Student Schedules: In addition to offering amazing free resources, Khan Academy has put together schedules that are meant to be templates for you to adopt, copy or modify to better suit the needs of your children, classroom or district. Access the file here.
Needles can be intimidating. We’ve all been there – In the doctor’s office, waiting anxiously to get a shot for whatever it may be, with our palms sweaty and breathing elevated. Since most adults have gone through this experience, we believe that it is best to prepare children what they might go through when getting a needle. See below for our best strategies to help children cope with anxiety around needles.
It’s Okay to be Nervous!
Did you know approximately ⅔ of children under 12 have reported anxiety with respect to getting a needle taken? It’s important to validate your child’s feelings – let them know it’s ok to be nervous, anxious or scared about getting a needle. Defining these emotions and bringing them to light will allow you and your child to learn how to cope with these feelings for the future, not scaring them into avoiding medical care in the future. As adults, we have to remember that they don’t have any or little experience with this.
Why you should have a conversation with children
Children are curious humans! They have a constant need to know what’s going on around them and in the world. This is why it is important to have a conversation with children about the importance of needles and shots, and the reasoning behind why we get them and how they work. Think about it – lots of things seem scary and intimidating before you understand what it really is or what it actually does.
Strategies to Help Prepare Children for Needles
Although children may be apprehensive about taking needles, there are ways to help alleviate their fears as much as possible. Let the steps below guide you through talking to your child about getting needles:
The first step is comforting your child with the fact that being scared is normal.
You can have a conversation to discover what about the needle is truly scaring them, and debunk fears by answering their questions.
Prepare your child by talking through what will happen – just a small pinch that will be over by the time you count to 5!
Putting your child in control through simple actions such as deciding on what shirt to wear, or what they would like to do after the needle will help them feel more comfortable and in control.
During the needle, prepare your child with coping strategies such as deep breathing and affirmations that will relax them.
Lastly, when the needle is over, compliment their strength or coping techniques in order to reinforce that this was a positive experience, and their bravery allowed them to persevere.
Being there for your child and providing them with the tools they need to overcome their fears is the biggest take away. Being nervous is normal and that is one thing you should make known. Having an honest and open conversation on whatever may be causing their anxiety will help alleviate some of their worries. With these tools in mind, your child will be sure to conquer their next doctor’s visit!
Peekapak is now offering a special lesson in our Peekaflu Unit titled “A Peekaflu Pinprick Plan” to help educators discuss the topic of needles. Students will learn about the Peekaflu flu shot in a letter from Cody. They will help Cody make a “pinprick plan” to prepare any students who may be nervous about receiving a shot. Set up a time with our Education Partnerships Director Deanne to learn more! Click here to book a slot.
Fleur, N. S. (2021, November 5). Talking to kids about vaccines. Family. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/article/talking-to-kids-about-vaccines-coronavirus.
McKeever, A. (2021, December 1). Helping kids overcome a fear of shots. Family. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/article/helping-kids-overcome-a-fear-of-shots.
Musgrave, R. A. (2021, May 3). Talking to kids about coronavirus. Family. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/article/talking-to-your-kids-about-coronavirus.
With the recent turn of events and the resulting school closures, we’ve been so impressed with the number of education technology organizations offering their resources. To help districts, schools, educators, and families, we’ve put together a list of recommended free at-home learning.
Free At-Home Learning For Elementary Students
Free Math Resources
Prodigy: Prodigy is a free, Pokemon-style math game that has been proven to improve student scores and confidence! It is aligned to the Ontario and other State curriculum for grades 1-6, and features content from each of the five major strands. You can sign up at prodigygame.com
DreamBox Learning: DreamBox Learning Math’s instructional design that allows for exploration, builds conceptual understanding, establishes fluency, confidence, and the creative application of mathematics. If you sign up before April 30th, you can access a free three-month trial: dreambox.com/at-home
Khan Academy: Khan Academy has one of the best sites for free at-home learning for math with self-pacing content for students.
Newsela: Engage students with thousands of texts on topics they care about most, with standards-aligned lesson supports built for ELA instruction. Prepare for distance learning with free access to Newsela’s entire product suite: www.newsela.com
Scholastic: For when school is disrupted, Scholastic has curated a free digital learning hub designed to support virtual learning plans: Scholastic Learn At Home allows open access to daily learning journeys divided into four grade spans—Pre-K–K, Grades 1–2, Grades 3–5, and Grades 6–9+. Learn more at: http://www.scholastic.com/learnathome
Free Science Resources
Mystery Science: Mystery Science has pulled its most popular science video lessons and is offering them for anyone to use for free. No account or login is needed. Copy and paste the links into your documents and use them however they might be helpful! They’ve also curated a starter set of science lessons that you can use remotely or share with parents. To learn more: https://mysteryscience.com/school-closure-planning
Discovery Education: Discovery Education Experience is an online K-12 service combining curated curriculum resources with on-demand teaching strategies. Its standards-aligned content is assignable and meets the varying needs of diverse student populations in a safe and secure environment. Request access here (schools and districts): https://www.discoveryeducation.com/coronavirus-response/
Peekapak:Peekapak is a social-emotional learning platform that helps elementary students learn skills like self-regulation and empathy through digital stories, research-based lessons, and personalized learning games that align with required reading and writing-based curriculum. To sign up to access Peekapak’s entire platform of resources, click here: https://www.peekapak.com/schoolclosures
Peekapak has also created specific Coronavirus lesson plans and family activities about the pandemic. Lessons help children understand their feelings during this time, practice gratitude to our frontline workers and create their own speical space at home. Learn more here: http://blog.peekapak.com/coronavirus-lesson-plans/
Who Do I want to Become? is a book by Dr. Rummet Billan for anyone, of any age, who has been stumped by the question of what they’re going to be when they grow up.
Who Do I Want To Become?
There are plenty of books out there that address the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” From Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do all Day? to Richard Nelson Bolles’s What Color is Your Parachute?, we are often encouraged to define ourselves through our career goals. But should we consider a different question? Author, social entrepreneur, and educator Dr. Rumeet Billan believes so.
In her new picture book, Who Do I Want to Become?, Rumeet invites readers of all ages to think deeply about what type of person they would like to become, rather than what job they would like to have. Through the story of a young boy struggling with a homework assignment, Rumeet gently guides readers to think about self-determination and what is truly meaningful in life.
In this highly relatable story, a class project is due, and Dylan is struggling with the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Ultimately, he realizes that it’s who you are that matters the most.
In the Classroom
Rumeet’s book will become an instant favourite in classrooms as it can help guide students’ learning and goals. By encouraging students to think about who they want to be instead of what they want to be, we can better prepare students for the future. According to a report by the Institute for the Future, 80% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. Therefore, it is essential to encourage students to think about which characteristics they would like to embody in their lives rather than which job they would like to have.
Who Do I Want To Become? is a refreshing new take on a question asked time and time again. One that invites us to discover something wonderful about ourselves that has nothing to do with what you want to be and everything to do with who you are and who you want to be.