“When deep snow falls, the world becomes quiet and still. And if we listen to our instincts, we settle in and enjoy the pure joy of not doing,” David Santner wrote on the website for the Poughkeepsie Day School in New York, where his son is a middle schooler, after the school turned to online learning during a spate of winter storms.
For schoolchildren, old-fashioned snow days used to mean languorous hours spent playing outside in the drifts, watching television or sipping hot chocolate. But someday, kids who can’t get to the classroom might just sit down with their computers.
Josie Holford, head of the Poughkeepsie school, which had six snow days and four late starts this past winter, said it’s possible to enjoy the outdoors and keep learning. Students in one class were told to draw a picture in the snow for a lesson on angles and to take a picture of their creation.
“We have to recognize as teachers, educators, all of us, that we are in a completely different landscape, and that learning really isn’t confined to a textbook or a teacher anymore,” Holford said. “We all have to be learning all the time. Why should a snow day stop the progress of learning?”
At St. Therese School in the Kansas City suburb of Parkville, Mo., students recently did a virtual make-up day after classes were canceled six times because of weather.
As she used a computer drawing program to complete an art lesson in her kitchen, seventh-grader Cameron Mottet predicted her classmates would embrace the system, especially if it means “they don’t have to go to school in June.”
Cameron’s older sister, whose school isn’t making up days virtually, has grumbled that she will be in class while Cameron is free to hang out at the pool.
The first experiments with virtual snow days began a few years ago as individual teachers started logging on during poor weather to drill older students. Since then, entire schools and districts have joined in, using websites such as Skype and YouTube to keep students as young as kindergarten studying during storms.