Saturday, February 24, 2024

Why snow days are good for kids

Michael Venutolo-Mantovani, What kids lose without snow days, Vox, Feb. 24, 2024.

With the proliferation of virtual learning, do kids even get to enjoy the magic of an unexpected snow day anymore? Are true snow days an endangered species?

Earlier this month, nearly 1 million students in New York City’s public school system learned that their schools would remain open, despite the threat of a predicted half-foot of snowfall (in the end, estimates ended up being a bit high, with John F. Kennedy International Airport reporting just over 4 inches of accumulation). Classes would be held virtually, they were told — even though there was a network outage that prevented smooth proceedings. There was plenty of pushback, even including some reports of teachers telling parents to ignore the edict from Mayor Eric Adams.

But the point remained: Access to virtual learning was robbing kids of one of the premier highlights of youth (at least in those geographical sweet spots like New Jersey, where snow falls sometimes in the winter).

Adams’s comments that New York City had to “minimize how many days our children are just sitting at home making snowmen,” completely disregarded the social needs of a generation of overworked and overstressed children.

Because there’s nothing wrong with a day or two spent sitting at home, making snowmen. At least not according to Melanie Killen, a professor of human development and quantitative methodology at the University of Maryland.

“Snow days need to be sledding days,” she said. Snow days offer “a different kind of learning ... an important kind of learning.” [...]

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a ‘brain break,’” Killen said. “Kids are out there using their brains in different ways on snow days. It’s a break from the traditional teacher-children dissemination, which kids need.”

Killen likened the typical snow day of the past to something like an extended recess, highlighting how during that less structured playtime, kids continue to learn. She added that almost everything about playing in the snow offers some sort of quantifiable lesson about the world.

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