Whether it’s archery or art projects, learning to sew or making meatballs, area students and their parents are coming up with creative ways to occupy their time while schools remain closed.

And that’s after only a little over a week’s time.

Teachers and administrators are keeping in constant contact with students and their families via email or phone and sending them ideas and online activities to keep their brains and bodies busy.

In these unprecedented, uncertain times amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, teachers don’t hesitate to admit that they are worried.

“In my 22 years of teaching, I have not experienced anything like what we are going through as a nation, state, community or a school district,” said Central DeWitt Intermediate fifth-grade teacher Angela Hofer. “I keep thinking I am going to wake up and realize that this was all a very bad dream.”

Hofer said she is concerned about the safety of her students and their families, as well as the complete disruption of their daily schedules.

“Some of our students look to school as their safe place where they have a routine, two meals and lots of support,” Hofer noted. “Being off is really hard on them, especially in times like these.”

Brooke Burke, who teaches Title One Reading and Class-Size Reduction at Calamus-Wheatland Elementary, shares Hofer’s apprehensions.

“My immediate concerns are that students are getting enough to eat, and that they have someone caring for them at home,” Burke related. “It worries me that parents are having to choose between taking care of their children or getting a paycheck to put food on the table.

“I hope (students) do what they can to keep learning. There are so many teachers willing to support parents if anyone needs to reach out.”

In fact, a post a number of educators are sharing on social media reads:

“While you are homeschooling/remotely/digitally educating your kids, if you need assistance with understanding something that has been assigned to your child, or if you need more resources, just give me a shout. I’m a certified K-6 teacher with endorsements in reading and special education. I am a special education teacher and I’ll be happy to answer questions or offer resources. We WILL get through this!”

Hofer said while the activities are optional — especially since some students have no internet access — educators are sharing suggestions of activities kids can do at home to stay current on the standards on which the schools are focused.

“We want to make their learning fun to help pass the days,” Hofer explained. “I will be checking in with (my students) via email just to see how they are doing and if they need anything. 

“When school resumes, we will pick up where we left off. We will make sure all students feel safe and know they were missed. It may seem like we are coming back from summer break, but we will all get through this together. We are better together.”

In an email sent out by Central DeWitt Intermediate Principal Bill Petsche, he said the district’s top concern is the health of its families and community.

Secondly, administration wants kids to continue tapping into their reading, math, writing and creativity skills while remaining active.

“Those skills can be practiced in a variety of ways,” Petsche wrote. “Encourage daily reading and being creative (draw, write, practice instruments, build, paint, experiment, invent, etc.) Encourage being active and getting outside daily. Developing a rough schedule will help kids stick to a routine, ensure they are doing a variety of things throughout the day and it will help them adjust back to school quicker once we return to school.”

 Some teacher-suggested ideas for any families, whether they have access to the internet or not, include taking a walk in the backyard, fixing a broken toy, playing card games that involve numbers, playing checkers or chess, planting seeds and recording their growth, baking a cake or cookies from scratch, making blueprints of their house, reading a biography about a scientist, using a magnifying glass to identify bugs, learning to use a compass, putting together a puzzle, making a puzzle, watching a sporting event and keeping statistics, planting a garden, trying origami, learn to type, building something using pulleys or gears or building an hourglass.

Desiree Driscoll, who has been teaching for 15 years — all at Northeast Elementary, in Goose Lake — said her students are weighing heavy on her mind and heart right now.

She sends them videos every day, and has three classes to whom she sends a read-aloud video. They comment back and forth about the book or anything that happens to be on their minds that day.

Driscoll said she knows students want to be in school. With each passing day, she receives comments from kids saying, “I wish we were at school.”

But given no other choice than to protect themselves and others, Driscoll said she would like to think families are making the most of this time.

“My hopes for our students while they are home is that they can connect with their families in a way that our busy world doesn’t always allow for,” she shared. “I hope they take advantage of the opportunities we are sending them virtually, but also that they enjoy their time. Read books, watch television, draw, create, listen to music and keep their bodies moving.”