Current circumstances mean the upcoming holidays will see more time spent at home and limited options for outings. For our girls, this can mean a slower pace, allowing them plenty of time to rest, clear their heads, relax and bond with other members of their households. This is really important for their health and wellbeing, even more so given the unprecedented situation we are facing.
As a mother, one of the challenges I face in the holidays is ensuring that time spent watching television or playing online games is balanced with fun and energising activities that stimulate creativity and learning. Some simple things my family and I will be doing these holidays include drawing and painting, writing creative stories, doing jigsaws, cooking and playing cards and board games. I’m even going to encourage my son to write some old-fashioned letters to his grandmother, who I’m sure will appreciate the gesture and connection during this period of social-distancing.
One of the other really important things I will do over the holidays is encourage a culture of reading in our home. Not only does reading provide a method of coping with stress and anxiety, it provides a forum for relaxation and escape. Reading is also beneficial in that it promotes positive life choices, morals and wellbeing.
Studies also show that students’ reading achievement has a direct correlation with academic success due to improvements in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency and knowledge acquisition. Generally, students who read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not. Students who don’t read often may be able to read ‘mechanically’, but they lack the flair for language which can affect their cognitive functioning and hinder their ability to communicate their ideas as effectively as they want.
Whilst the libraries are currently closed, The Rockhampton Regional Libraries provide online access. For those who have a library card and PIN, there are many online services including Borrowbox (for eBooks and eAudiobooks), Beamafilm (for documentaries, independent features and festival favourites), RBdigital (for magazines and e-audiobooks) and Storybox Library (favourite stories for children). Further information is provided at https://www.rockhamptonregion.qld.gov.au/FacilitiesRecreation/Library
There are also lots of good online activities. For example, many children and teens may enjoy the virtual tours of some of the best museums in the world. The British Museum’s website is split into geographical areas, timelines and themes and you can walk through various areas like the Egyptology section (https://britishmuseum.withgoogle.com/). The National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C (https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour) will also let you take virtual self-guided, room-by-room tours of select exhibits. The Musee D’Orsay
(https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/musee-dorsay-paris?hl=en) offers an online walk-through with options like the “art camera” that allows students to see close details on paintings. These tours may be of interest to those who enjoy history or art, but the benefits extend beyond this to the development of skills such as stronger critical thinking skills, higher levels of social tolerance and greater historical empathy.
Over the break, and particularly next week, it is important that our students in Years 10, 11 and 12 spend some time reviewing the work they started this term, completing any suggested learning activities their teachers provide and preparing themselves for when we return. They may organise their notes from Term 1, write up summaries, complete revision worksheets or read ahead. For senior students, particularly Year 12s who are completing work for their QCE and ATARs, getting a head start over the holidays could actually reduce stress and improve their results.
Doing low level study, engaging in stimulating activities and reading daily can keep brains active. All of the activities I’ve highlighted above keep students’ neurological pathways stimulated, which helps to maintain the gains they’ve made in the classroom and prevent regression. Catherine Scott, senior lecturer in Education and Cognitive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, says, “There is a well-known phenomenon of memory decay. Particularly when you first learn something, you have to practise it fairly regularly or the ability to retrieve it gets worse. If you are not using it every day, your brain makes a decision for those connections to weaken."
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to our students, families and staff who have been so encouraging and supportive of each other throughout the additional challenges of recent weeks. Small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness go a long way in the midst of the stress and concern of the current situation. I am particularly grateful for the generous and dedicated work of the Girls Grammar staff. Thanks to the care, professionalism and hard work of so many people, I believe we are well-positioned to successfully navigate the weeks ahead.