OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Social Hour: School Organized Time for Kids to be Kids

How might we create space for casual talk, collaborative play, and natural ideation in a virtual environment?

Photo of Anya Smith-Roman
7 5

Written by

I am a.....

  • Student
  • Kids Coach (gymnastics ages 4-14)

Tell us about your idea

As school has moved online, educators have done a great job of finding ways to continue academic learning in a virtual environment. However, we've lost the social and community elements that also come along with being at school: funny lunch stories, bumping into people in the hallway, pre-class discussions about assignments, etc. These social elements of school help keep kids mentally healthy and that's of huge importance right now in particular. Just like when we're in our schools physically, we can't assume that kids are getting all the social stimulus they need from their home environment alone. 

What if schools/teachers hosted more community events or open invitation video chats that were purely meant to be a space for just having fun and being social? 

This could be as simple as setting up a video chat, sending out the meeting link, and just letting kids talk... No prep required, and yet this could make a huge difference especially for younger students who might not have the means to contact all their classmates and organize a video chat, but they're dying to just have those random conversations we all love with people outside of their households. 

Some more elaborate ideas could include: 

- themed lunch meet-ups: Disney lunch, pajama lunch, medieval lunch, etc

- dance parties: dress up and suggest a song for the playlist!

- drive-by parades (for literally anything... honestly, the more nonsensical the reason to celebrate, the more creative kids get and the more fun they have.) 

- "story-time": Once a week a class/grade/(whatever fits for your environment) spends an hour just hearing about each other's stories from the week; perhaps there are 5 people who have been pre-selected to share and the floor is their's for 10 minutes to talk about whatever they want with the rest of the class and maybe take a few questions. 

- "Open Mic Night": show up and get on the sign-up list to show off the art you've been practicing at home; sing a song, play an instrument, display a painting, do a dance, etc. 

- "Game Night": there are a lot of physical games that can work to be played online as long as everyone has their own set, plus there are millions of online games now 

Collaborative play is an essential part of human development and a virtual environment shouldn't prohibit schools from providing the space for these casual interactions. 

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

The role of the teacher has to change. Students shouldn't be talked AT they should be talked WITH. There are so many valuable insights that come out of the collaboration between young people and adults working side by side on projects.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I am a university learner at Georgia Tech studying business and psychology to become a social entrepreneur in education. Currently, I'm Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Trailblazers ed-magazine, Director of Design Thinking/Education Lead for the social impact organization Wish For WASH, and a gymnastics coach/head choreographer at Jump Start Gymnasium. 

I'm studying abroad at the moment, so I've been alone in my apartment for the past 7 weeks and personally faced this struggle of lack of school socialization. Furthermore, when leading virtual gymnastics classes, it's been very obvious to me how much the kids (4-14) just want to talk with each other, sometimes to the point of disrupting the class, which inspired this idea.  

What region are you located in?

  • Oceana

Where are you located?

I'm currently studying abroad for a year in Wellington, New Zeland, but home for me is in Atlanta, Georgia back in the States.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anya Smith-Roman

I couldn't add this above due to word count, but I've been prototyping the general version of this idea with my gymnastics kids. We (the coaches) decided to start leaving the video chat open for 30 minutes after class was over so kids could just stick around and talk, and the kids have really seemed to enjoy it, as have I!

I really wish my school teachers would do something similar because I'm new not only to the university but new to the country as a whole and we only started classes here 3 weeks before lockdown, so I really don't know anyone my age that's also in my time zone.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Anya.
Thanks for sharing this idea and what you are doing to prototype it. Creating time and space for socialization is so important, for all age students.
I love that the impetus for the idea was based on your observations while teaching gymnastics online! Are all the kids in the class spending the extra time online? Are they all comfortable socializing in this way?
Have you had any feedback on the prototype from the students' parents?

As I read your idea it reminded me of another post I read on the challenge -
Virtual Cafeteria posted by Tess Peppers 

View all comments