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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Snow Days and Blizzard Bags

Snow Days and Blizzard Bags

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We're all at home today- my husband, kids and I- because Winter Storm Hercules has shut everything down across at least 6 states. Living in New England, snow days are part and parcel of our winter life- but they're not what they used to be. Some schools in our region have started using "Blizzard Bags" (totes filled with activities and lessons prepared in the fall or winter in an effort to regain lost instructional time (and maybe prevent a school year that runs through the end of June). My husband and I are still working- even though our schools are officially closed today- so why shouldn't our kids? (You can read more about the whole Blizzard Bag concept- and how it's working- in this piece from New Hampshire Public Radio- http://tinyurl.com/k7kkqf8 )

I get the logic and it makes sense, I guess, but I'm still glad that my kids spent the day sledding, reading, (okay, and playing Minecraft) instead of slogging through worksheets or watching video lectures online.

What about you? If you're lucky (or unlucky) enough to live in blizzard country, how will you use your snow day(s)? How do you think the kids should use them?

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Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
K-4 Technology Facilitator from Northfield, New Jersey

We were closed for mold a couple years ago at the start of school ... more than two weeks ... would have loved some way to make those days productive ... but I'm not gonna lie ... snow days are sacrosanct ... they should ABSOLUTELY be spent sledding, making snowmen, shoveling driveways, drinking hot cocoa, spending time with family. Easy for me to say because snow days ARE NOT that common here!

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Growing up in NH, I spent many snow days skiing or playing in the snow. Those moments of quality time with friends and family have provided me with a lifetime of memories. One can get a lot out of a day of fresh air and play, followed by some hot cocoa and reading while you warm up.

Interestingly, when I asked my 7th grader his opinion, he said if it meant not having to make up the snow day in June, he wouldn't mind doing work from home. (note I am asking him this as it is snowing with the possibility of a snow day tomorrow)

I think I am split down the middle on this. I try to inspire & provide my children with opportunities to learn every day...I think it is important for us to model that learning doesn't have to mean reading a textbook. But...these are typically school days - so spending the day learning doesn't seem like a crazy request. I think it just requires serious planning on the school's end to ensure that all children have the ability to participate regardless of what access to technology they (don't) have or parental support they may (not) have.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

My college student and son are still on break until Monday, so no snow day here this time :)
I usually have my kids do projects- they've taken apart old computers and electronics and learned more about how they work, help with chores around the house, and there's always a little sledding and play as well. Snow days often feel like unexpected gifts- I think for teachers and kids alike, and as such, they are those small, serendipitous gifts that should be set aside for some old fashioned fun outside of Xbox :)

Outside Philadelphia, we average one or two snow days a year, so there's not a lot of need for a Blizzard Pack. If there was cause. like in Kevin's case, for an extended period out of school, then I think looking into skype, google hangouts or other remote learning options/projects is important. But for a day, it's probably best to take it as a surprise holiday and enjoy.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal

You know what I struggle with? The joy of the unexpected day off and the pain of the extra day in June. Some of our local districts have gone to counting minutes rather than days- that means they can add 10 minutes a day for a period of weeks instead of adding days (or weeks) in June.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

I'm with Kevin, I totally love the random wonder of the snow day and the fun things that can happen on a day that should be spent in school.

Also, Summer is long enough, so what's one day less?

My biggest concern with the blizzard bag is that it would basically end up being replacing a day of school with teachers with a day of terrible worksheets.

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

I agree with Kevin. There are various types of learning and it doesn't always have to include worksheets sent home from school. My favorite quote by Mr. Rogers, "play is the work of childhood", rings true here. I'm all about spending a snow day sledding, playing, and exploring. There is nothing wrong with a day or two off from school to extend your learning/playing beyond the classroom.

I can also see how 2 weeks would be extensive and a big loss of time. Perhaps a long at-home self-guided project would be a good assignment and use of that time?

Enjoy your snow days! We don't get many of those in Cali :)

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