The Implicit Planning Opportunities of Snowdays

I've been thinking about factors that affect planning for elementary science and math curricula.

Here in Vermont, we are in another snowstorm and school has been canceled for the day. In my early years of working as an elementary teacher, I used to go in anyway, seizing the opportunity for unscheduled time alone in the classroom. The time was invaluable for catching up on paperwork, testing out activities, poring through resources, and tidying the room.

Later on, I got a little bit more relaxed about planning; I knew of more resources and activities and the kinds of things that were likely to work well with a given group of students. I would stay at home instead during a snowday, sled down the unplowed road with neighbors, play a board game, read, watch a movie, or have tea with friends. Maybe my partner and I would drive into town to sit at an Internet cafe.

During this "down time"--or at least, time considered off the clock--a funny thing happened. The historical novel I was reading would contain a reference to some intriguing mechanical gadget that would make me think about simple machines. Or the Yahtzee game had me thinking about probability and strategy. Or the loaf of bread, baking in the oven got me thinking about chemical reactions. In short, the activities I engaged in, everyday, usual activities, were full of potential studies or projects in science, math, and technology.

The time spent away from school, the unexpected breathing space or break in routine, prompted a sort of contemplation that for me was not as possible in the regularly stepped out schedule. A break or hiatus was the perfect occasion for rumination.

Good teachers teach from experience. If you're too busy teaching to have a chance to experience things, your teaching can become depleted. This winter, if you live in a snowy climate, allow yourself the space and time to experience the snowy day. You may be surprised with the inspiration that comes as softly as the falling snow.

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