BY MIA SALAS
We’ve had anything but a normal fall here in NYC. Between at-home and in-person learning, virtual birthday parties, and Zoom or FaceTime at the Thanksgiving dinner table, we’ve really been experiencing unprecedented times. But NYC is resilient, and so are its parents — somehow, someway, we’ve navigated the global pandemic and have tried our best to establish normalcy in our little ones’ day-to-day lives. With the winter season here, you’re probably looking to get your kiddos back onto a more regular schedule with extracurricular activities. We’ve got the scoop on how winter activities are different this year so that you can start planning for the season!
Organizations recognize that winter activities are extra important this year, and they are ready to support your kiddos. David Meyers of Rock on Music School says: “Outreach through music is needed now more than ever. At Rock on Music School, I use the energy and flow of music to build social connections and creative thinking.” Kids need to not only be on a schedule, but connect with others, whether virtually or in-person.
It goes without saying that many organizations have switched to an all-online platform for their activities and classes. The benefits of learning online is you no longer have to find a class that meets around the block from your apartment or on route to work, the options are limitless. Location convenience used to be such a determining factor for choosing an extracurricular, especially with our busy NYC lives. But now it’s a much different story with at-home learning.
Claire Graves, Director of Marketing at the Atlantic Acting School, says: “Converting all of our acting classes for kids and teens to a virtual experience has allowed us to reach students across the globe! Serving students outside of our physical NYC area not only helped diversify our student base, but it has also given us the opportunity to connect with a greater number of new students and parents!” Claire even adds that there may be a more long-term place for virtual learning: “We hope to continue some kind of virtual programming in the future so that we may better serve our newly expanded community.”
Because organizations have expanded their reach with remote learning, you don’t only have to enroll your kiddos in activities that are down the street, or even within the city for that matter. Plugged in Band explains: “We have traditionally served the Boston area, but we are now able to offer our programs and classes online to people all over the country.” NYC certainly has an overwhelming amount of top-level, engaging after-school activities, but it’s worth seeing what other places have to offer as well. Perhaps your child is really interested in digital audio production, and Plugged in Band may be just the organization for them!
Not only do you have more options, but your kids will get to be immersed in a more diverse and enriching learning environment as they are surrounded by other little ones from all over the city, state, or even country and beyond. For example, Crescendo Music Academy got creative this year with Zoom: “Because of the power of the Internet we were able to expand our reach and include students from other parts of the US with very different and interesting approaches to their instruments. We were then able to connect all our students and have them all perform for each other during our monthly live Zoom concerts.”
Speaking of creativity, organizations are getting very creative this winter as they plan their programs. We couldn’t be more impressed by how they’ve transitioned from in-person to virtual learning. Take Musical Munchkins, for example, a musical education program for little ones: “We’ve encouraged parents to be creative in using the equipment and instruments which are part of our curriculum, improvising with toy musical instruments, kitchen pots/pans/utensils for making music at home. Additionally, we have offered an Amazon website where parents can purchase a gig bag that includes most of the instruments we use regularly.” Flexibility and innovation are key for winter activities this year!
Belle School of Music is another example of inspiring creativity when it comes to activities. After shifting to online learning, the school notes: “The lessons are dynamic, stimulating and FUN. After decades of experience we know how to keep our students engaged and motivated. When they enjoy something they succeed at it!” Like Belle School of Music, many of these organizations have been around for a while, and they quickly and successfully shifted online while maintaining the same excitement that their programs offer to little ones.
Some organizations are even getting creative with the very platform for learning itself. Crestwood Music Education Center has “converted almost 500 of their students to online lessons via Facetime, Skype and Zoom,” and Dr. Cano adds: “How wonderful it is to be able to continue to bring the gift of Music during such challenging times.” Zoom is quite popular these days, but it isn’t the only platform that organizations are using to move their programs online. Facetime, Skype, and Zoom each have their own unique benefits, and we love that activities this season are experimenting with a variety of online platforms.
While a lot has changed with how winter activities will look this year, the goal of these activities has remained the same. Collina Italiana, an immersive Italian language and cultural center in Manhattan, explains: “Every virtual class feels personal. At Collina Italiana, we believe you must immerse yourself in the Italian culture in order to truly learn the language. Our approach is to constantly expose our students to Italian traditions, culinary secrets, folklore and words.”
Like Collina Italiana, Hoff-Barthelson Music School has “been able to continue to successfully engage students of all ages in musical learning, allowing them to stay connected to their teachers and to each other in a virtual environment, and to benefit from music’s power to connect and comfort, even across distance.” Virtual learning doesn’t change the overall impact of the extracurricular experience.
Many organizations are also still offering a variety of program options, even amidst the challenge to move them online. Challenge Camp says: “Our program is known for offering a wide variety of STEM and Arts enrichment electives and we wanted to provide the same breadth of options. Our virtual format had over 110 electives, and the campers took the classes for the entire session which let them go in depth into areas of interest.” Things are certainly different this year, but you can feel confident that some things have also remained the same.
Yes, many classes and activities are online, but there are select ones that are offering in-person options. You may be wondering what measures these programs are taking to ensure the health and safety of your kids. Collina Italiana mandates temperature checks, masks, social distancing, a COVID questionnaire, and students have to bring their own writing utensils. Currently, they only have in-person private classes, no groups.
Similarly, Crescendo Music Academy states: “Next to the obvious minimum safety measures that are required by all of our teachers and students, such as face masks, face shield, hand washing/sanitizing, social distancing and frequent window opening for fresh air, we also prepared Covid health forms that need to be completed by all parties before, to ensure an extra level of safety beyond the obvious and make sure in writing that teachers, parents and students understand how serious we take those measurements.” Whether you opt for a fully-online or in-person program, you can be sure that your little ones will be staying safe at their extracurriculars.
Now more than ever, winter extracurriculars are super important to establish a sense of pattern in our kids’ day-to-day lives. From Zoom to in-person private classes, kitchen musical instruments to online concerts with kids from around the world, winter activities in NYC are ready for your family to join in on the educational fun.
This story first appeared on our sister publication newyorkfamily.com.