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WVU Extension experts provide enriching activity ideas for students over winter break

School might be taking a break for the holidays but that doesn’t mean students’ learning and fun have to stop.

Two West Virginia University experts offer STEM and physical activity ideas to keep youths engaged and moving during break.

Jennifer Robertson-Honecker, WVU Extension STEM specialist and associate professor, and Kerry Gabbert, WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program assistant professor, offer tips for fun activities to keep youths learning and active over the holiday break.

Monongalia County Schools are shuttered until Jan. 2.

“Just because students aren’t in school at this time doesn’t mean they can’t learn something and have fun while doing it,” said Robertson-Honecker. “STEM is relevant in all our daily lives, and our STEM activities teach youths to find the joy and excitement in finding the answers to life’s questions.”

Robertson-Honecker said the WVU Extension website includes a STEMCARE webpage that has many fun and educational STEM-related activities that can be used in the classrooms, at camps or around the kitchen tables.

“One activity that is particularly appropriate for the holiday season is our DIY flashlight activity, which is a great introduction to how LED tree lights work,” she said. “Students get to learn about circuitry as well as experiment with making their own flashlight.”

Robertson-Honecker said not to stop with the website, but to look to YouTube for more.

“Our YouTube channel has many more STEM-related videos and activities as well,” she said. “We have a STEM playlist that contains more than 20 videos that walk you through step-by-step activities that youths can do with a friend, sibling or parent.”

Gabbert said physical activity is as important as the educational work — not just for the school students, but the whole family.

“During the holidays, children and families face increased stress and overscheduling. One of the best ways to reduce stress and improve physical and mental health is physical activity,” Gabbert said. “Youths need 60 minutes of physical activity per day, which can be spread out throughout the day.”

She said there are ways to make getting physical easier.

“It can be easier to approach physical activity by reducing sedentary time. After every hour of sitting, get up and move for at least two minutes,” she said. “Do any type of movement that appeals to you — a yoga pose, a strengthening exercise or cardio. Every minute counts toward the daily goal.

“The best physical activity is the one you enjoy. Children need all three types of activity — exercises to make your heart beat faster, to build muscles and to strengthen bones. Regular physical activity can reduce stress and chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity, strengthen bones and improve academic

The WVU Extension website also has a page that covers the importance of keeping children active, as well as some family-friendly ideas to get moving and have fun.

“There is also a Get Moving playlist on the WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program YouTube channel with at-home exercises for children,” Gabbert said.