Balloon Days at Tualatin Valley Academy
Kimberly Clifton, fifth grade teacher at Tualatin Valley Academy in Hillsboro, Oregon, created Zoom activities for her class to “end the year with a bang.” Usually, the end of the school year is marked by special parties, picnics and swimming outings. Though Clifton could not plan the typical celebratory activities thanks to the pandemic, she wanted to make the end of the year as exciting as possible for her 19 students. She decided to surprise them with a series of activities over Zoom involving balloons.
Since distance learning began, Clifton has had daily Zoom video meetings with her students so they could chat and she could spend time reading to them. A few weeks before the end of the year, the students were surprised to see several balloons behind Clifton in the video call. Over the days leading up to the last day of school, students took turns selecting a balloon to pop. Each balloon had a slip of paper listing an activity. The activity selected by popping a balloon would be the plan for the next day’s Zoom call. The activities included virtual field trips to Disney World, Pictionary and Cozy Day, for which students came to the meeting in pajamas and slippers.
Another game they played was a gratitude scavenger hunt. Clifton gave the students prompts like “find something that brings you joy.” Then the students would bring that item to the Zoom meeting the next day to share. And, of course, the fifth-grade class played an adaptation of the game show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
Clifton’s goal in hosting balloon Zoom days for her students was to bring joy to their lives amidst the boredom they might feel doing school from home. She says, “I’ve always tried to make our Zoom meetings minimal work, mostly fun.” And especially with the end of the year, she “didn’t feel like they should be stripped of all their fun.”