Plan a Fun Break with Our Winter Activity Calendar

By: Beth Werrell

Calendars are useful tools in virtual school for many reasons. A typical calendar helps by keeping track of appointments, test dates, special occasions, and more. Learning calendars can help you understand the learning process by recording what goes well and what can be improved. There are also family calendar apps that help families manage daily priorities.

Calendars also make fun crafts, especially if they take on a creative form. For example, the dates on our Winter Activity Calendar are represented by paper cutouts, which dangle from a clothes hanger on a piece of string.

The Winter Activity Calendar also has a special purpose: to help students schedule activities over winter break. To try this calendar craft, download the Winter Shapes Templates and click on the graphic below to see the activity instructions.

Winter Activity Ideas

When you’re choosing activities for your winter calendar, take a look at the following list for inspiration.

  1. Write a poem about winter.
  2. Find coding tutorials to try.
  3. Make paper snowflakes to study symmetry.
  4. Play a board game.
  5. Build nature smarts by finding and counting evergreen plants in the backyard.
  6. Do our holiday marbled paper craft.
  7. Find the most effective feeder for your backyard birds on January 5th, which is National Bird Day.
  8. Learn how to dust for fingerprints.
  9. Test out new indoor physical education activities for K–5 students or exercises for students in grades 6–12.
  10. Make positive refrigerator magnets.
  11. Bake cookies to ...

9 Pinterest-Inspired Winter Learning and Craft Ideas for Kids

By: Stephanie Osorno
Pinterest Winter Break Activities

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again—endless food, festive parties, gift giving, and family gatherings! This joyful season is especially exciting for kids, who have most likely been anticipating the winter celebrations for months. But how do you motivate your student when the holiday fun is over and it’s time to get back to the daily school routine? Luckily, the learning never has to stop! There are plenty of enjoyable winter learning activity ideas available on Connections Academy's Pinterest boards that you can do together over the winter break to keep your child stimulated and excited about academics.

How Does It Work?

For those of you who are not familiar with the site, Pinterest is a “visual discovery tool that you can use to find ideas for all your projects and interests.” It serves as a useful virtual bulletin board to store all of your creative findings! The assortment of inspirational ideas and projects are broken down into different themed “boards,” which you can choose to “follow.”

“We are using Pinterest to find some creative craft ideas so we can decorate our home for the holidays. From making hand turkeys to making snow, we find a way to incorporate math, reading, or science into our fun activities—and, of course, we do work outside on a beautiful day!”
~ Kelley Christiansen, Louisiana Connections Academy parent

What Do You Look For?

We curate a number of helpful and interesting boards that, among others, include useful tips for parents ...

Discover the History of Coding for Computer Science Week

By: Beth Werrell
History of Computer Programming—Start Coding

Educators, parents, and students across the country are starting to take coding more seriously. On Monday, the Obama administration announced that over 60 school districts plan to add computer science courses to their curriculums. For Computer Science Education Week, students across the world are learning the basics of code and participating in coding events. How are you and your child getting involved?

The first step is to find out how learning to code benefits kids. Next, take a step back so you and your student can discover the history of computer science. We have assembled a timeline that takes a closer look at how computers and coding have evolved over time. You and your child will discover how programmers throughout the years have imagined new possibilities and used their skills to make their ideas come to life. You’ll also learn some surprising facts!

Take a look at the history of computer science timeline below.

Computer Science Timeline
  • 1843 – Mathematician Ada Lovelace writes about programming while she works with Charles Baggage, who creates the first plans for a mechanical computer. Lovelace writes an algorithm, or program, that could be used on this computer, which is why many consider her the first computer programmer.
  • 1938 – Konrad Zuse completes the design and build of the Z1, the first freely programmable computer. It is a complex mechanical calculator that uses binary code, or “ones and zeros.”
  • 1945 – John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert complete the Electronic Numerical ...

6 Stress Management Tips for Online Students

By: Tisha Green Rinker
Six Stress Management Tips for Online Students

Your class assignment is due in an hour. Your Internet connection is down. Your little brother is making entirely too much noise. Sound familiar? You are stressed out!

As the holidays approach, we can all become stressed with too much to do at school, at home, or in our communities. So today, we’re sharing some of the best student stress management tips covered during a recent National Counseling LiveLesson® session. Although geared specifically to students, we think students and parents alike will find these tips useful year-round.

What Is Stress?

The Mayo Clinic defines stress as a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life. As part of our biological programming, stress causes our bodies to secrete a cascade of hormones that increase our heart rate, raise our blood pressure, and cause our muscles to tense. While this so-called “fight or flight response” in our bodies might be critical in an actual fight, it’s not so useful when you just need to get through a tougher-than-usual school day.

Are You Stressed? What Are Your Stress Triggers?

To manage stress, you first have to recognize when you are stressed and what is stressing you—your stress triggers, in other words. It sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes we don’t even know we’re stressed out until we tune in to our own thoughts and bodies for signals.

If your jaw muscles are clenched, your shoulders are tight, or your stomach is churning, chances are you are stressed. If you are ...

Why Learning to Code Benefits Kids, Regardless of Future Career Choice

By: Beth Werrell
Introducing Kids to Coding

“An understanding of computer science is becoming increasingly essential in today’s world. Our national competitiveness depends upon our ability to educate our children—and that includes our girls—in this critical field.”
—Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, is one of many advocates of computer science education in our country. Educators, technology experts, business leaders, and even celebrities support a new movement with a clear purpose: to teach children to read and write code.

Coding is the new literacy. To thrive in tomorrow’s society, young people must learn to design, create and express themselves with digital technologies,” says Mitchel Resnick, a media arts and sciences professor at the MIT Media Lab.

Coding is so important because its impact extends far beyond simply creating software and websites. For example, a group of software engineers who were stranded in Boston during a snowstorm realized they could use coding to improve the city’s safety. The problem, they discovered, was that firefighters wasted time trying to find fire hydrants buried in the snow. The software engineers then created a program that identified the location of every fire hydrant in the city, and they used the program to create a website called Adopt-a-Hydrant. On the site, residents of Boston can volunteer to shovel out a nearby hydrant when it snows, improving the neighborhood’s safety in the event of a fire.

Computational Thinking Fosters Problem-Solving Skills

But before children can even identify problems like this that can be solved with coding, ...

Why Developing Soft Skills during High School Matters

By: Tisha Green Rinker
soft skills

Did you know that 77% of employers say that “soft” skills like communicating effectively are just as important to getting hired as technical job requirements or “hard skills” like knowing a computer programming language?

What Are Soft Skills?

In a recent college and career counseling LiveLesson® session, we discussed soft skills and why they matter to high school students who are starting to explore career paths. Soft skills are the personal traits and attitudes that allow you to succeed in the workplace, college, and life. They’re the cluster of skills that enable you to work well with groups, solve problems, manage your time, and take personal responsibility for your work. In today’s competitive job market, these are the skills that can set someone apart from other candidates. In college, they’re the skills needed to stay on top of your studies.

With many employers saying they can’t find employees with the soft skills they need, students should know that there are strategies they can use to develop these in-demand skills while still in high school:

Build Your Communication Skills

To become an effective communicator, you have to first become an active listener. When conversing with family, friends, or teachers, listen carefully, paraphrase their comments back to them, and ask questions to clarify their meaning or draw them further into the conversation.

In “Five Ways to Listen Better,” TED Talk speaker Julian Treasure refers to this technique by the acronym RASA: Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, and Ask. Not only does ...

Influential Learning Theories: Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
 Learning Styles Diagram: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic Modalities.

Educators and researchers are always looking for innovative ways to improve student performance. As a result, the education field is crowded with different theories about learning, teaching, studying, and so on. Two of the most popular ones are the Multiple Intelligences Theory and Learning Styles Theory.

No single theory or philosophy can fit every situation and meet every need. To make sure you help your virtual school student learn and study effectively, review the details about these theories below.

The Multiple Intelligences Theory

Psychologist Howard Gardner developed this theory in 1983. He claimed that people have eight independent ways of processing information, which are:

  1. Verbal–Linguistic (Word Smart)
  2. Logical–Mathematical (Logic Smart)
  3. Visual–Spatial (Picture Smart)
  4. Auditory–Musical (Music Smart)
  5. Bodily–Kinesthetic (Body Smart)
  6. Interpersonal (People Smart)
  7. Intrapersonal (Self Smart)
  8. Naturalistic (Nature Smart)

It’s more accurate to think of the eight intelligences as abilities or strengths. The human brain is extremely complex, and all of these types of “smarts” work together.

How to use the theory
To apply the Multiple Intelligences Theory to online learning, use it to help your student develop all of his or her strengths. Remember that there are activities that help develop more than one ability at a time. For example, you can help your child do some creative learning activities, such as:

Teach Kids to Show Gratitude with Thanksgiving Place Mats

By: Beth Werrell

When young children are old enough to talk, they start to learn simple words as well as basic manners. And when a child learns the appropriate times to say “please” and “thank you,” he or she slowly starts to connect manners and gratitude. Teaching children to be grateful is essential to character development.

To help your child understand and express gratitude, try our Thanksgiving place mat activity. It’s a simple construction paper craft that gives kids a chance to thank every friend and family member at the Thanksgiving dinner table. These personalized place mats are decorated with cutout leaves, which have handwritten messages such as “Thank you for teaching me how to bake cookies.” It’s a great exercise because writing specific messages reminds kids of all the things they are grateful for.

Other Crafty Place Mat Ideas

The Thanksgiving place mat craft is easy to modify if your child wants to get creative. Here are a few ideas he or she might like to try.

  • Add extra flair with stickers, stamps, and markers.
  • Use tempura paint to make a handprint turkey in the middle of the place mat.
  • Draw a picture of the family member on a blank sheet of paper. Cut it out and glue it to the center of the place mat.
  • Glue on a couple of real leaves, if you can still find some outside.
  • Include one of the thank-you quotes at the bottom of the page.

Don’t forget ...

How Trends in Online Learning Are Changing Classroom Design

By: Stephanie Osorno
How Online Learning is Changing Classroom Design

When you think of a classroom, you probably think of the traditional setup: rectangular desks with a chair facing the teacher and the chalkboard. It’s the kind of design that advocates for a lecture—a teacher delivers a lesson while the students listen and obtain significant knowledge.

But is that really how students learn best? New trends in digital learning show that the standard classroom setup is changing since students are proving to be more active learners. With many schools executing blended learning by integrating virtual technology into their curriculum, classroom designers have begun to reevaluate and modify their overall approach for a more optimal learning environment that better meets today’s student needs.

Why the change?

Here are a few things students gain from a less structured learning setting:

In a study on active learning spaces, Steelcase found that a more informal learning environment endorses a less passive and more active student—one who participates in the discussion or lesson instead of simply absorbing. Steelcase breaks down the core of active learning into three categories:

  • Pedagogy
    Utilizing a layout that can easily be changed from class to class in order to accommodate different teaching methods, including a lecture, individual work, or collaborative work.

  • Technology
    The careful integration of technology to enliven ...

The Digital Divide in Online Learning: 2014 National Snapshot

By: Stephanie Osorno

Today, more students have access to more types of digital learning than ever before. But there's also a persistent divide in the availability of digital or online learning options throughout the states.

That’s one of the conclusions drawn from recent research in "Keeping Pace with K–12 Digital Learning: An Annual Review of Policy and Practice." Released this month at the International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL) conference, the report from the Evergreen Education Group provides a snapshot of the digital learning landscape in the U.S.

"Course choice is perhaps the single most important emerging issue
related to online learning."

States with Statewide Fully Online Schools
Number of student enrollments by state and percentage of state's K-12 population.
Source: "Keeping Pace with K-12 Digital Learning: An Annual Review of Policy and Practice (2014)".
Retrieved from

Here are some of the digital learning trends and issues we think you'll also want to know about:

  • Public policy continues to play a critical role in access to and innovation in online learning.
    • Thirty states have full-time online schools with open enrollment policies. Those policies enable students across the state to attend, regardless of the district they live in.
    • Eleven states have course choice policies that allow students to choose online courses from various providers. However, twenty states actually prohibit open enrollment, and a majority of states don't allow course choice.
    • In states without course choice, students are limited to what's offered by their local school district. As the study sums it up, "Course choice is perhaps the single ...

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