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Things Students Can Do Independently

Distance learning has begun to burn out many a student, parent, and educator. Breaks are necessary but can still be educational. See below for some fun, independent learning activities you can offer students. 

Fun and Creative Career Exploration

Art & Science

There are tons of webcams at zoos and other natural habitats. Encourage students to take a look and either:

Be a scientist: What can you observe and document to learn more about this creature’s habits and behaviors?  What questions might you have?

Be an artist: Can you draw this animal? Try to draw it realistically. Then impressionistically. And lastly create a cartoon version.  Which do you like best and why? What standards does an art critic use to determine what is good art?

Cornell’s bird site is one of the most active. Access the live webcam here and check out a sampling of what can be seen below.   

"Breeding season has begun! It's the time of year when we begin to see birds displaying courtship behaviors at the feeders. Here, a male Northern Cardinal arrives at the feeders with a gift of seed for a female. This food-sharing behavior between adults, also known as "allofeeding," during the breeding season is suggested to be a form of courtship, whereby food sharing helps build or maintain a strong pair-bond between mates."

San Diego Zoo's Penguin cam is another active one. Watch the creatures live here

Or check out the Live Falcon Cam from the UMass-Amherst Libraries.

And if students prefer more online instruction – try draw every day with J.J.K. The drawings are focused on themes that elementary students would find entertaining (unicorn, ice cream cone, etc.). See to the right his introduction video and click here for his full page. It is important to remind parents that engaging activities and play  often help students identify interests and find skills that latter lead to enriching career paths.

For middle schoolers or high schoolers who will need a future art portfolio practice pencil drawing fruit and shading.

And just for fun – students can google the words “coloring page” and thousands of images are available to be printed and colored.  Have them scan their art, coloring pages, or doodles and use them to brighten up your web page. Or, simply encourage them to use their imagination, like the UMass school counselor education students did below. 

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Skylar Clark, 1st Year School Counseling Master's Student

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Sierra Archer, 1st Year School Counseling Master's Student


Sheila McHugh, 1st Year School Counseling Master's Student

Learning a Foreign Language

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Students interested in careers in foreign countries or with aid organizations will enhance their opportunities if they are fluent in multiple foreign languages. This can be a great time to pick up another language. There are many web sources for this:

And once you’ve picked up a language (or are trying to improve a language that a student is already learning in school), try a movie in the new language. Google your favorite streaming service and the language of interest “Netflix and French movies” or “Amazon Prime and Spanish movies” and up will come "best of" lists for that language on your streaming service.

Career Preparation

One great way not only for students to gather information on possible career options, but also to encourage social connection during this time is to recommend students engage in some of the following: 

  • Mock Job Interviews

    • Encourage students to search the most commonly asked interview questions for ​college and career and have them prepare their best answers. Then, a family member, friend or even the school counselor can set up a time to engage in this mock interview. 

      • Find here a list of questions commonly asked of job applicants and those that applicants can ask the potential employer. ​

  • Phone/Remote Informational Interviews

    • One of the best ways to gather information about a career or school is through talking with people who have direct experience. Encourage students to think about the people in their lives and what jobs they may be interested in pursuing. One of their personal connections may have the job they're interested in and they can easily reach out to do an informational interview. Or one of their connections may know someone who has the job they're interested in and will be able to connect the student and that job-holder for an interview. Most people love to talk about themselves, so this is a win-win for both curious students and connection-starved adults. 

      • UC-Berkeley's Career Center offers a list of common informational interview questions here, but also encourage students to come up with some on their own.

  • Resume Building

  • Self-Assessments and Letters of Recommendation

    • Many schools require students complete "self-assessments" before asking school faculty for letters of recommendation. These assessments are designed to get the student thinking about their accomplishments, what they're most proud of, what they've been involved in over the course of their educational and extracurricular career, and how this information may be useful when pursuing colleges and careers. These assessments are then presented to the faculty members students are requesting letters from to provide a well-rounded picture of the student if they don't already know, as well as enlighten them to anything special they weren't already privy to--all in the name of writing the best letter for the student. 

What other activities can students do independently from you?

Share your suggestions on the school counselor survey form.

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