Enrichment at home: It’s a Rap

May 20 – 21

Rap is basically spoken poetry with a strong emphasis on rhythm and rhyme. Below is an incredibly moving music video made by Carrie Underwood and Ludacris for the 2018 Super Bowl. Ludacris’s rap is embedded in the song. It’s a special kind of poem: an acrostic. Each line emphasizes one letter from the word “Champion”, so that reading the first letter of each of these words down a page of lyrics would spell the word,

Although the next video may be most suited to preschoolers, the truth is anyone would love this rap of Fox in Sox. And fortunately, it’s one of a series. Younger kids will love listening. Here’s a challenge for older kids: see if YOU can rap a rhyming children’s book. A great way to connect with younger cousins or other tots you are missing right now would be rap the a book by video chat or record a book for them.

As discussed, rap is essentially spoken word poetry with a strong instrumental beat. Not all poetry places the emphasis on rhyme and rhythm found in rap and other spoken word poetry. So what makes a poem a poem?

Next is a link to a video on how to rap that adults may want to view before before sharing. It is a clean video with excellent tips on rhyme and rhythm. This was chosen for it’s emphasis on language, however in contains sales pitches and refers viewers to other rappers families may not be comfortable with. Parents can look for other resources using the search terms “rap beginners kids.” For teens, drop “kids” but parents may especially want to screen for content. There are some wonderful videos on the poetics of rap, but they may contain violent language or other material that is not suitable.

Social Distancing Butterflies

May 18-19

Use materials from around the house to make a butterfly feeder. It might attract hummingbirds as well, although for hummingbirds you may need to position it differently. Craft foam is listed in the materials for the project, but we made ours without any. Use what you have on hand. That makes it YOUR project.

You’ll want to know who’s visiting your feeder, so try some of these identification activities, including the butterfly scavenger hunt.

All the butterflies you’ve been observing could serve as inspiration for some gorgeous art work. This Pinterest board is filled with butterfly themed arts and crafts activities suited to all ages.

Social Distancing Jam Sessions

May 15-17 This week-end’s blog post is dedicated to the community of roots musicians in and beyond Charlottesville/Albemarle who enrich the lives of everyone, young and old.

Have a jam session this weekend. Get your friends to join you on your favorite video chat app, or grab a mask and a measuring tape if you are starting to try a little physical distancing. Please do not share instruments.


This sistrum was made in one of our own workshops, using brass brackets and a coat hanger.

Of course, you’ll need some instruments. These instructions for ten instruments kids can make should get you started. You might not have the exact materials the instructions call for, so improvise. Try buttons for beads, two paper clips for bells. The ideas you come up with may be the best ones. Please see below for information on workshops with our frequent collaborators, Kim and Jimbo Cary.


You can jam with just about anything!!!!

While you’re working on your instruments, play a little roots music to get some inspiration. Some suggestions to look for when you stream music: Putumayo Kids, “American Folk Songs for Children” by Mike and Peggy Seeger, and “Classic Folk Songs for Kids,” Smithsonian Folkways Collection.


Carver Rec Center session with Kim and Jimbo.

When your instruments are finished, find a live stream concert and play along in your living room. Charlottesville’s Front Porch is streaming three times a week. The Atlanta Children’s Museum has Music Mondays. Or stream a video of a musician you like to play with and jump in. The Enrichment Alliance has had frequent collaborations with Kim and Jimbo Cary. For this post, they sent us a link to a video to a song Jimbo wrote for The Animal Rescue League.


Kim and Jimbo Cary collaborative concert.

Kim & Jimbo are available for online music workshops for children and families and also live  at-a-distance  performance/workshops for making and playing homemade instruments and more. Visit kimandjimbo.com or contact kimandjimbo@gmail.com


Now you’re ready for an old time jam Invite your friends to join you by way of a chat app, or jam with your family. Follow the social distancing guidelines. Finally, here’s one critical tip for jam sessions: they’re not supposed to be perfect; they’re supposed to be fun.

Quarantine Enrichment Ideas: Gardens in Bottles

May 13-14

It seems there’s an infinite number of ways to create gardens out of recycled soda bottles. I remember a project we did when I taught elementary school that involved two 2 liter bottles, cut and reassembled to create multiple layers, with an aquarium on the bottom and a terrarium at top. I could not find that exact set of instructions, but this Soda Bottle Ecosystem comes closest, the only real difference being that it uses 3 bottles. This will require some adult supervision, due to the use of an Exacto Knife.


A very similar method is used to create a Hydroponic Garden. Hydroponic gardens grow plants without soil. While the systems can be quite complex, involving special equipment, this is a simple system you can create at home. After looking over these materials, try entering “hydroponic”, “aquaponic,” and “soda bottle” in your search engine for some more ideas, including vertical gardens.”


This video shows how to grow a rain forest in a garden. You might want to add a little clear packing tape when you join the two pieces. What other ideas do you have for a soda bottle terrarium?


These are just three ideas from a multitude of possibilities. Have a look at this Pinterest Board for more ideas for reusing soda bottles to create magical gardens.

Covid-19 After School- Read Alouds

May 11-12. Read-alouds are for always.

There are numerous benefits of reading aloud to children, no matter what their age. Even when they are able to read independently, reading aloud can increase pleasure in and comprehension of reading. Reading together is such a valuable way to spend time with your children, and we have a list of suggested readings for that, but with children home while parents are working, it can be good to have some online resources to augment family reading time, so we have included two resources for online stories.

Storyline features children’s books read by celebrated actors, including Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Kristen Bell, Rita Moreno, Viola Davis, Jaime Camil, Kevin Costner, Lily Tomlin, Sarah Silverman, Betty White, Wanda Sykes.

Stories in ASL has a similar catalog for young children, but also goes up beyond age eight. including classics for older children, such as Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, and even some posts suitable for adults, such as “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Eveving.” Their website is updated weekly, so check often for new posts.

Read Aloud America is a list of books suitable for reading aloud to everyone from babies to adults. It’s updated annually and the latest update was posted this spring. If you are away from your children, grandchildren, or other significant kids in your life, pick a story and read it to them on ZOOM.

But if that’s not enough, did you ever consider reading to your dog? According to this article, reading to dogs benefits children. Presumable the dogs enjoy a good plot, too. Especially plot hounds.

Children’s Activities in Quarantine: Board Games Revisited

April 8-10 Are you bored with board games?

You don’t need to buy new games to play new games. The games you have around the house can be played with new rules.

Changing up checkers. Bashni is a crazy Russian variation of checkers that involves moving ever growing stacks of checkers around the board.

Scrambling Scrabble. If you have a set of Scrabble tiles at home, there’s almost no limit to the different kinds of games you can play with those tiles.

Monopoly Not Monotony. Ever notice the rules you play by don’t seem the same as the instructions? Ever play with a friend who has rules you never heard of? There are all sorts of ways to vary Monopoly. Maybe you can come up with some new ideas of your own.


These are only a few ideas. Look at the game you have at home and type the name of a game plus the word “variations” and you may get some helpful hits.

Gifts Children Can Make at Home

April 6-7

Bath Bombs. This is just so cool. Make bath bombs with household ingredients. Be creative about using items you have on hand if you can’t find the decorative silicon ice trays.

Pipe Cleaner and Yarn Trivets. Making these lovely trivets or coasters is a simple activity, but these instructions do require a glue gun. Try craft glue, tacky glue, or paste glue if you don’t have a glue gun and/or an adult to supervise.

Once you’ve made your gifts, you’ll need a card. Wouldn’t a pop-up card be especially fun?

And you’ll need some wrapping paper of course. You can make that with supplies on-hand. These instructions call for a sea sponge, but experiment with other materials.

Every great celebration involves food. Here’s a Fruit Salad that could be a side dish or a dessert. It’s a light, simple dish a child can prepare, with or without assistance depending on age and ability. Consider substituting low fat yogurt for the sour cream and/or pudding.

Field Trips in Quarantine

May 4-5 Aquaria

(That’s the plural of aquarium not an astrological sign, in case you weren’t sure.)

As you may have heard by now, the penguins are taking field trips in aquaria (that’s the plural of aquarium. I just said that, right?) Join them on their tour of The Florida Aquarium.

Staff at The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores are working incredibly hard to keep young people engaged in learning about marine life during the pandemic with activities and an animal of the day. They even have a virtual bookshelf.

Now you know enough to make your own aquarium, and you don’t even need live animals to do it. Check out this Pinterest Board to get some ideas for making an aquarium diorama. Maybe you’ll want to make two aquariums. No wait, that’s aquaria.

Activities During Quarantine: Printmaking and Foil Art

May 2-3

This promises to be a very lovely weekend, so get outside to collect some natural materials for these captivating art works.

Foil Art. Instructions for this activity suggest drawing with glue. The effect is marvelous, but here’s a suggestion: gather some natural objects and glue them under the cardboard as well.

Sun Prints. You may have seen commercially available paper for sun prints, but did you know you can make them if you have acrylic paints and a few other supplies?

We like to start every month with a gallery crawl. Visit the National Gallery print collections online to see some examples of beautiful prints through the centuries and from all over the world.

Quarantine Activities: National Poetry Month

April 30- May 1

The end of National Poetry Month is not an end at all. It’s the beginning of a new year of exploring the many gifts reading and writing poetry can bring into our lives. So we end April and move into May with a few ideas to keep you reading and writing throughout the year.

Blackout Poetry is a type of “found poetry” that involves darkening sections of previously published writing in order to create a poem. While this type of poetry often involves the use of black markers, it can be particularly creative and exciting to use colored media to create a visual artwork that interacts with the written words. We’ve linked a Scholastic article that takes this process step-by-step to lead you into creating beautiful works of written and visual art. The artwork feature today is all offered with permission from Stacy Antoville, the art teacher cited in this article. For more exquisite student art, follow her class on Instagram @art_o_ville.


We want you to get up and moving every day during quarantine, so here’s an activity to incorporate with a daily walk. Grab a pen or pencil and notepad, or if you prefer use a notepad app. Take a walk, preferably a good long one. Write down at least 5 things you see, 3 things you do, and 1 thing you overhear. Draw a quick sketch of one thing you see. You may or may not actually decide to use this in a poem later. The point is to notice details. (Adapted from an activity offered by Erika Meitner, VQR Writers’ Conference, 2019).


There are numerous audio and downloadable poetry books at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library. Temporary library cards are available online during quarantine.


Our director, Mary Anna Dunn, will be offering an online poetry class through Charlottesville Parks and Recreation’s Adaptive Recreation Program later this summer. Details TBA.