How to Creatively Engage Children

While “Sheltering in Place”

With Vermont** & New Hampshire schools closed, teachers and families are adapting in order to keep children healthy and actively engaged in meaningful educational pursuits. Here are some great resources for providing children with creative educational engagement and a daily routine while sheltering-in during the coronavirus health emergency:• Click here for a comprehensive article in the New York Times about constructively planning for how children use their time each day, as well links to educational resources, including numerous worksheets for various subjects and grade levels. The article includes links to age-appropriate reading lists, National Geographic Kids, Bill Nye–The Science Guy’s informative website, and more.

•  Click here to join the Facebook page Kids in Quarantine 2020, which was created to share ideas, solutions and talents aimed at making life easier for school-aged children and their caregivers.
• Vist this website to see the wealth of online resources listed by the Children & Nature Network FINDING NATURE: Staying connected to the Natural World During COVID-19.

Photo by Andrew Ebrahim (Unsplash)

• Here are two links to some suggestions and resources shared by the Upper Valley Teaching Place Collaborative to help parents and grandparents engage children educationally & experientially in science and nature:

–  Four Winds Nature Institute has compiled this fantastic list. It is a month’s worth of things families can do together in nature.

– The Sullivan County Conservation District put together this list of citizen science projects that families can participate in.
**Vermont Schools are closed through the end of the current school year.


How to Safely Go Outside During the Covid-19 Sheltering-in Mandate

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources provides guidance for how Vermonters can safely get outside and enjoy the fresh air:

•  Stay close to home. Find areas close you can walk or bike to. If you must drive, limit the distance from home to 10 miles, and only drive with members of your household.

•  Practice social distancing while outside. You lower your risk when you stay at least 6 feet apart from others. This includes having your dog on a leash and close to you.

•  Be cautious and choose low-risk activities to avoid injury. This will help lower the burden on our hospitals and health care system.

•  Respect signs for closed areas, trails and land. Check to see if your trail is open before you visit.

•  For more information, visit the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation here.
•  This information and more is available at this continually updated webpage.
•  Check out the Upper Valley Teaching Place Collaborative Webinar series here.
•  Review the Journal of the American Medical Association protocols here.

The Real Corona

           Sunny Educational Activities You Can Do While Sheltering-In

           by Michael J. Caduto

OK, kids. You’re hearing a lot about the coronavirus. With school out and missing your friends and having to stay indoors more often, you’re ready for something that’s UP and on the bright side. Let’s learn about the sun’s corona. Although you can’t look directly at the corona because that would damage your eyes, here are a few fun facts and activities about our home star.

At times, when a person is being very active, someone says, “You’re a regular ball of fire.” But no one can hold a candle to the Sun. At its center or core, the Sun’s temperature is 28 million°F. At this great heat the atoms of hydrogen join together to form helium, named after the Greek name for the Sun, Helios. Energy is created every time hydrogen joins to form helium. This is the force that drives the Sun’s energy. Even though 600 million tons of hydrogen change into helium every second, there is still enough hydrogen left for the Sun to last another 5 to 6 billion years!


When we catch a brief glimpse of the Sun, we see the 200-mile-thick layer called the photosphere, which is about 10,000°F. Sunspots are about 2,700°F cooler than the rest of the photosphere, so they appear darker. Some individual sunspots are wider than the diameter of Earth. They can last for anywhere from a few hours to a couple of months, and they can produce violent explosions called solar flares. A large solar flare can last for a few hours, interrupt satellite communications on Earth and generate enough energy to power the entire United States for 100,000 years. Sunspot activity is at a low point in 2020, and won’t peak again until about 2023.

Surrounding the photosphere is another, somewhat hotter layer of the Sun called the chromosphere, which is 1,000 to 2,000 miles thick. Finally, like the skin on an apple, comes the corona, in which the temperature shoots up to more than 1 million°F. Superheated gases from the corona rocket off into space as charged particles called the solar wind. The reddish chromosphere and the corona’s whitish streamers are only visible during a total solar eclipse, a time when the moon passes between the Sun and Earth and the Sun is blocked out wherever the moon’s shadow falls. (The Sun’s energy can damage eyes and cause blindness, so don’t ever look directly at the Sun, even during an eclipse.)

Drive to the sun?

The Sun is more than 93 million miles away, but we can feel its heat and light as if it were close by. Just how far away is the Sun? If there were a road that led from Earth to the Sun, your family could climb into the car and drive there. But the ride is going to take a while.

Let’s say that, on the road to the Sun, the driver brought the car up to 70 miles per hour and set it on cruise control for the whole ride, 24/7. At that speed, if no one stopped to eat or to take a bathroom break, and the drivers rotated so that you never had to slow down or stop, you would arrive at the Sun in 152 years. How long is that? If your family had begun such a journey back in 1865—the last year of the U.S. Civil War—you would have finally reached your destination in 2017!

A Fun Sun Activity

Stroll to the Sun: It would take 109 Earths, placed edge to edge, to reach across the face of the Sun. And if you had a bag as large as the Sun, you could fit one million Earths inside. For this activity you will need:

  • popcorn or peppercorn 1/8th-inch in diameter (representing our Earth)
  • yellow ball or balloon 13.25 inches in diameter, or a round piece of cardboard cut to this size and painted yellow (representing our Sun)
  • outside area measuring 121 feet long
  • measuring tape to mark distance

Find a long, fairly level place outside in or near your yard. Use the measuring tape to mark a line 121 feet long. Have someone walk to the far end of this line while holding the ball, balloon or yellow disc representing the sun. Have someone else stand at the near end of the line holding the peppercorn or kernel of popcorn representing Earth. At a scale of 1 inch = 64,000 miles, this is how large our Earth and Sun would look compared to one another, and this is how far the distance would be between them. Now everyone: Walk the entire distance between the miniature Earth and Sun, and you will have walked 93 million miles!

Portions of this article adapted with permission from the author’s books: Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Super-Charged Science Projects for Kids, and Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children (with Joseph Bruchac). (Activities for Keepers of the Earth were illustrated by artist Carol Wood, who also works as a Lister for the Town of Woodstock.)

Comments are closed.