Still looking for things to do, and ways to cope with the stress of the coronavirus while at home with your family? Here are some thoughts.

Teachers have been tasked with preparing online lessons and students and parents may be facing apprehension moving into a brave new world of education. But experts say take a deep breath and stay calm.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” said Alecia Magnifico, an associate professor of English at the University of New Hampshire. “Nothing like COVID-19 has happened in our lifetime and the last pandemic like this was over 100 years ago, so no one is really prepared for all these quick changes in everyday life. We have to give ourselves a little grace and trust our educators.”

Schools across the country will have varied teaching styles depending on age groups, course topics and accessibility to technology. A survey by the Pew Research Center shows issues of technology inequity with roughly only 60 percent of rural Americans saying they have access to high-speed internet at home.

Bethany Silva, research assistant professor of education and director of the Community Literacy Center at UNH, said in the wake of the coronavirus, parents may even see differences in online learning expectations among their own children – something she’s experienced in her own household.

“My husband is a teacher, and his school has online class for a specific block of time each day, while my son’s school has a series of activities that he’s expected to complete at some point that fits his schedule,” said Silva.

Magnifico and Silva, who work together researching how informal learning interaction can impact and enhance classroom learning say no matter what lies ahead, there are several steps families can take to make this a rich and rewarding experience:

Maintain a routine to help children thrive.

It’s OK to think outside the box. Have fun with schedule – different children have different needs. Maybe allow for TV time during the day if it keeps everyone more productive. Save evenings for board and card games – also good literacy/math activities.

Take breaks – both parents and kids.

Get up and move – go for a walk, try YouTube Yoga, have a house dance party.

Supplement curriculum with extra activities to enhance learning experiences. For example: Journaling or reading stories – especially for younger children.

Remember play time is important for learning, too.

“Take advantage of the fact that kids are home and try a little place-based learning,” says Silva. “For example, children and parents can track the signs of spring in their outside spaces, which is a great science activity. When it’s warm enough, they can bring paper and keep a field journal of what they see – while practicing safe social distancing, of course.”

Meanwhile while adults are home teleworking, and kids are at home participating in online educational instruction , it’s even more important during these challenging times to take a moment to get out into the family yard.

The TurfMutt Foundation is reminding families that nature starts right outside your back door. Let the proven benefits green space give us a break from being cooped up inside. Listen to the birds. Watch the trees. Work outside planting and preparing for the budding spring, or even mow the lawn.

“Numerous studies have found that people who spend more time outside with their families and pets exposed to living landscapes are happier, healthier and smarter. It’s great to know being outside is good for you,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO, of the TurfMutt Foundation.

Researchers have studied the impact of nature on human well-being for years, but recent studies have found a more direct correlation between human health, particularly related to stress, and the importance of people’s access to nature and managed landscapes.

Living near living landscapes can improve your mental health. Researchers in England found that people moving to greener areas experienced an immediate improvement in mental health that was sustained for at least three years after they moved. The study also showed that people relocating to a more developed area suffered a drop in mental health. Greening of vacant urban areas in Philadelphia reduced feelings of depression by 41.5% and reduced poor mental health by 62.8% for those living near the vacant lots, according to a study by a research team.

Living landscapes make you smarter. Children gain attention and working memory benefits when they are exposed to greenery, says a study led by Payam Dadvand of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona. In addition, exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms in children.

This applies to adults as well. Research has also shown that being around plants helps you concentrate better at home and at work. Charlie Hall, Ellison Chair in International Floriculture believes that spending time in gardens can improve attention span and memory performance by as much as 20 percent.

A National Institutes of Health study found that adults demonstrate significant cognitive gains after going on a nature walk. In addition, a Stanford University study found that walking in nature, rather than a concrete-oriented, urban environment, resulted in decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and produced cognitive benefits, such as increased working memory performance.

Physicians are now prescribing time outdoors for some patients, according to recent reports. Park Rx America is a nonprofit with a mission to encourage physicians to prescribe doses of nature.

So get outside. Enjoy the fresh air. And breathe.

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