This year having a snow day to play in the snow has become a big deal. Since so many schools have been using distance learning of some sort there is still school despite the 10 or more inches of snow. It’s amazing that the schools won’t have to make up snow days anymore. The school calendar is going to be more accurate for everyone, but at what cost?
The First Big Snowstorm of 2020
In Massachusetts, our first big snowstorm was today, December 17. The entire state is being covered under inches and inches of snow. There is an endless stream of plow trucks driving past our house. It started snowing around midnight and it is still coming down heavily at 2 pm. And it’s supposed to continue for a few more hours.
This year I am not teaching, I’m home taking care of my little guy who is not quite two. We got to go out in the snow to play, throw snowballs, jump and climb the snow, and of course bring our dog on a walk.
It was his first real experience with a lot of snow. He was hesitant, and wanted to be picked up a lot. I had to show him how to throw a snowball and hand him several. He finally started to pick some up on his own and lay down in the snow. He had so much fun learning while exploring outside. It was only a short amount of time because my little guy won’t last long out there in the cold, but it was so much fun.
I was shocked that there weren’t more kids outside playing in the snow. Then I realized why. So many schools are still assigning a full day’s worth of school work.
What Snow Days Looked Like At My Hybrid School
I feel I can speak to this because I taught in a school that had an online component for the last several years, even before I worked there. Every assignment was handed out online and in class. Jimmy forgot his book at school? Great, it’s online. Sally forgot that worksheet? It’s okay, just download it. Timmy wants to see the video we watched in class to help with his homework? Awesome, I put it up online before he left school for the day. Jane was out sick? That’s okay all her work is online so she can come in tomorrow ready, plus I emailed her any extra details.
Having work online was just part of our regular day.
Before a big snowstorm my boss would tell us the day before, if they knew, that school would be cancelled. They would also tell us to assign some work, but not too much because students might need more help than is reasonable to give online.
The bigger reason they asked us to limit our workload was that they should be kids and play in the snow. Yes, that’s right. The people in charge of my school told me I should not assign too much work because playing in the snow is important.
The New Snow Days … or Lack There Of
Fast forward to me being a stay at home mom during the 2020 pandemic and all over social media I am reading how schools are just fully remote for the day, kids are sad they can’t play in the snow, parents are sad their kids won’t have that experience. Everyone is praising the few districts who are having a good old fashion snow day.
Why can’t all the schools have a snowday? The calendar is already shortened and messed up this year. Students are already “behind” where the schools want them to be. What’s the harm in letting them leave the screen for a day to play and explore? Haven’t there been studies showing too much screentime is bad? They can stretch those tired sitting in a chair all day muscles, and blink those screen weary eyes.
I think there is so much more to gain from skipping a day of “remote learning” than we can even understand. There is so much wonder and magic in a big snowstorm.
I can see PTAs across the country petitioning to keep snow days, or at least a few of them.
How Teachers Can Honor Snow Days
- Assign less work: Chances are if you give full lessons the students won’t finish it or will have trouble understanding it. Assign less work and maybe gear it more towards practicing what they already know.
- Snow work: Bring the kids into the snow to do their work. Make a scavenger hunt. Have them do timed tasks. Have them build a fort. You can justify any of them: science, math, stem.
- Video/Google Slides: Have them create videos and Google Slides documenting their snow day.
- Journal: Have them journal about what they did.
- Contest: Sponsor a cooking contest for creating the best after playing in the snow recipe.
- Challenge: Create different building challenges in the snow. For example, igloos, snow house, Gaga pit.
You may not be allowed to say, “No work today. It’s a snow day,” but you can think outside the box with what you are assigning.