NIOBRARA COUNTY – Schools worldwide have closed in response to COVID-19, leaving parents and caregivers scrambling to find daily activities for their children that are educational, creative and entertaining.
If you’re facing this challenge for the first time, there are many online resources that you can turn to during this uncertain period of self-isolation, social distancing and quarantine.
Live Science has compiled a list of our favorite lessons, games, science experiments, live demonstrations and virtual tours, and we’ll be adding more as they become available.
Head of the class
Scholastic launched a Learn at Home website with daily lessons that combine videos, stories and prompts for drawing and writing activities. Grade levels include pre-K and kindergarten, grades 1 and 2, grades 3 to 5, and grades 6 and up.
Khan Academy, a free online learning resource offering lessons, exercises and quizzes, has daily schedules for organizing at-home learning for students ages 4 to 18 years. On weekdays, Khan Academy is also offering daily livestreams on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to help parents and educators best utilize the website’s tools and resources.
Crash Course is a YouTube channel offering engaging educational videos suitable for high school students. The channel features a wide range of subjects, from anatomy to world history.
ABCmouse.com is offering a free 30-day trial of its comprehensive early learning academy for children aged 2-8 and includes educational games and activities designed by teachers.
In response to school closures, dozens of companies that produce educational materials have made their resources available as free subscriptions; you can find links on the Kids Activities website. Links to free K-12 educational resources such as audiobooks, e-books, videos, multimedia materials and more are also available on the Open Culture website.
Teen science fans will nerd out over Nova Labs at PBS, where they’ll discover multimedia experiences that combine video, animation and games to delve into fascinating scientific topics, such as polar ecosystems, solar storms and renewable energy.
NASA isn’t just sending missions into space; the agency has also launched Teachable Moments, connecting classrooms — and homes — with resources for investigating the latest discoveries about our universe. There are a range of activities and lessons that are suitable for grades K-12.
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is another source of free online content. Educators share daily Facebook Live videos that pair with hands-on activities (instructions are available as free downloads) using materials that can be found at home. Topics include rocketry 101, tours of Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Astronaut Training Experience, and living in space and on Mars.
“Space Racers,” an animated series for preschoolers about spacefaring cadets at the Stardust Space Academy, also offers science-based lessons, games and space-related educational activities that families can explore together.
Ranger Rick, the children’s magazine of the National Wildlife Federation, is making its website free to all visitors through the end of June. Free Ranger Rick Educator’s Guides and Ranger Rick Jr. Parent Reading Guides are also available to parents and educators.
Beginning physics students will find plenty to discover in the Physics Classroom, and there are teacher toolkits for supplementing the site’s online lessons with videos, animations, simulations and exercises.
Want to have a family Q&A with a scientist? Sign up at Skype a Scientist and get matched with an expert, for a live Skype chat with your family about real scientific research.
Explore simple plant science with this list of Live Science experiments, or learn about non-Newtonian fluids by making colorful slime — regular or extra puffy — with glue and food coloring.
Creative and relaxing fun
Color Our Collections offers free PDF downloads of coloring pages created from art in the collections of 117 institutions, including The New York Academy of Medicine Library, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, RISD Museum, the North Carolina Museum of Art, The Canadian Canoe Museum and The Royal Horticultural Society libraries.
Got a 3D printer? You can download digital 3D models from NASA and print miniature satellites, landing sites, asteroids, spacecraft, spacesuits and astronaut tools.
Artist and writer Mo Willems (author of “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!”) is hosting daily Lunch Doodles video sessions every weekday at 1 p.m. EDT. Each daily episode is accompanied by a downloadable activity page.
What could be more soothing than watching jellyfish drifting serenely through the water? In “MeditOcean,” the Monterey Bay Aquarium hosts a soothing 11-minute guided meditation video, featuring the undulating and graceful ballet of several aquarium jellyfish.
Children in grades 3 to 12 can learn to write their names in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, in this step-by-step guide from the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada.
A good story sounds even better when it’s read in microgravity. Story Time from Space sends children’s books to the International Space Station (ISS), where the books are read on video by astronauts as they orbit hundreds of miles above Earth.
Take a virtual field trip! More than 2,500 museums around the world have made their collections accessible online through Google Arts and Culture; you can also use Google to access virtual tours of national parks in the U.S.
There are 10 live webcams at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where you can peek at sharks, sea otters, penguins and more. The San Diego Zoo has 11 animal webcams, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute has four animal webcams, and there are six webcams at the Houston Zoo.
And if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can visit the surface of Mars in a spectacular high-resolution, 360-degree photo tour, created from images captured by the Curiosity rover.