As families juggle work and home-schooling responsibilities during the COVID-19 crisis, Eamonn Fitzgerald, the early childhood coordinator for the Fayette County Public School District, says many people are learning firsthand just how challenging that can be.
“I think we’re all realizing just how important teachers are now we have to do it ourselves,” Fitzgerald says. “And it’s all the more difficult because parents haven’t had the time or training to know what kind of lesson plans will work best with their kids.”
But Fitzgerald says he knows a great place for parents to begin their home-school planning—the Learn at Home resources provided by KET and PBS.
The KET and PBS resources offer online activities, lessons and other learning materials that are all tailored to specific age groups and designed to make learning both fun and engaging.
As the father of two children, ages 8 and 2, Fitzgerald says he’s witnessed just how useful those resources can be. He’s regularly turned to both KET and PBS over the past few weeks both to find ideas and to augment his children’s learning projects with related activities.
Last week, for instance, his 8-year-old daughter was learning about the artist Michelangelo. Looking to round out the lesson, Fitzgerald turned to PBS LearningMedia, a free repository of thousands of educational learning materials, to show her images of and works from Michelangelo. Then, to replicate what it was like for Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, he covered the underside of a table with construction paper and had his children lie on their backs and decorate it.
“It really drove home the idea of how difficult it was for Michelangelo to paint in that way,” Fitzgerald said. “It was a great idea—and it was easy and something different that they loved doing.”
Fitzgerald’s such a fan of the learning materials from KET and PBS, he’s been promoting their learning resources to parents and educators in his school district.
“It’s all free, and it’s from a trusted source, so it’s one of the best resources out there,” Fitzgerald says.
One of the best ways to begin, he says, is to pick a single activity—and then use the KET and PBS resources to help transform it into a learning experience.
His children recently constructed homemade towers made from toothpicks and packing peanuts—seeing how tall they could build a single structure, all while learning about the underlying physics. The idea stemmed from a Ruff Ruffman lesson on structures, also available on PBS LearningMedia.
“There was a whole vocabulary the lesson provided as well to help teach basic science concepts,” Fitzgerald said.
And when his children have their inevitable questions, he resists the urge to just give them a quick answer.
“That’s too easy—it’s much better to say ‘Let’s figure this out together,’” he says. “Then we’ll visit PBS LearningMedia and see where that takes us. More often than not, that leads us down into the rabbit hole. And that’s great because we’re all learning new things along the way.”