CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Under normal circumstances, the home is a cherished refuge from the cares of the world. These days are anything but normal, however, and for many parents, overseeing school lessons for homebound children is an unexpected source of stress and uncertainty.
In the interest of helping parents by getting kids outside, away from screens and engaged in easy-to-understand, hands-on lessons, the Tennessee Aquarium has created Weekday Wonders, a series of free, science-at-home activities.
Developed by the Aquarium’s award-winning education department, Weekday Wonders offers curated science content that has more structure than some other kinds of activities without the formality of an actual school lesson, according to Dr. Brooke Gorman, the Aquarium’s Director of Science Education.
“This series is specially designed for pre-K through fifth-grade children whose parents are suddenly finding themselves homeschooling unexpectedly,” Gorman said. “A lot of people aren’t really comfortable with science, so we want to help support those parents to help their kids learn without feeling the pressure of feeling nervous about what they know or don’t know.”
Weekday Wonders activities are carefully crafted to reflect and augment the lessons students would be tackling in the classroom. To make things easier on impromptu homeschool educators, though, they are written so that parents can easily set their kids on a path to meaningful scientific discussions and revelations.
The series is constructed around five-day ‘weeks,’ each of which explores an overarching topic, such as ‘living things and the environment’ or ‘ecosystem diversity.’ New lessons are released daily, focusing on questions such as ‘What do animals need to live?’ and ‘Where do animals live in rivers and streams?’
Easy-to-read daily activity guides walk parents and their kids through a variety of engaging activities, discussions and physical challenges, including daily nature journaling topics, hands-on art or crafting projects, backyard scientific investigations and even animal-themed yoga poses.
“The guides are general enough that all ages can do something with them,” Gorman said. “We really wanted to think of ways that kids could do things that don’t involve devices and get them outside near their homes.”
And just as importantly, she added, Weekday Wonders should take some of the strain off parents who feel overwhelmed with the need to micromanage their children’s education.
“Even though these daily guides include interactive activities, we have tried to make them things that parents can get kids started on and then let the kids continue on their own,” Gorman said. “That way, parents have time to tackle their own work or prepare other activities.”
Weekday Wonders is the latest resource the Aquarium is offering to help de-stress parents and others who feel increasingly disconnected (from each other as well as the natural world) during the ongoing health crisis.
Each weekday at 1 pm, EST, the Aquarium is producing live streams that include ‘moment of Zen’ calming views of various exhibits and expert-led discussions of various animals or behaviors. These #AquariumAtHome Facebook Lives frequently offer behind-the-scenes views and are opportunities for digital visitors (and their children) to interact directly with Aquarium staff. The topic and timing of the daily stream is announced each morning on the Aquarium’s Facebook page.
To help provide mental stimulation, distraction and stress relief to viewers of all ages, the Aquarium also has assembled a wealth of free content at <tnaqua.org/aquarium-at-home>. This site serves as a convening point for a variety of fun resources, including:
- Access to always-on webcams in the Secret Reef, River Otter Falls and Penguins’ Rock
- Printable activity sheets
- Educational video series
- Naturalist Notebook blog written by Tennessee Aquarium Education Outreach Coordinator Bill Haley.
- Streamable IMAX films and accompanying educational guides
- A guide to backyard birdwatching
In the interest of public safety and in accordance with Tennessee’s statewide shelter-in-place order, the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX 3D Theater remain closed to the public until further notice.