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Education Opinion

What High School Students Can Do This Summer

By Angela Duckworth — June 18, 2020 1 min read

Students can’t participate in a lot of the usual summer jobs and activities. What can I encourage them to do instead?

I was asked this question just the other day—by my own teenage daughters. Both adjusted admirably to distance learning, missing prom, and exclusively seeing their friends in 2D rather than 3D. But frankly, neither is looking forward to spending the summer holed up with her parents 24/7.

Now what?

Students can still leave the house without leaving the bedroom. Through EdX, for example, universities like MIT, Harvard, and UC-Berkeley offer anyone the opportunity to audit college-level courses for free. Code.org has videos, tutorials, and projects for kids of all ages to learn JavaScript, CSS, HTML, and other programming languages.

And here’s an idea that is actually more doable now that much of the world is forced to stay at home. Your students can email professionals in different fields and request, politely, a curiosity conversation. Whether it’s a family friend, an alum from their high school, or a total stranger they email out of the blue, the ask is for just 10 minutes of their time, via phone or video, to learn more about what they do, what they enjoy about it, and how they ended up in that line of work.

I assigned the curiosity conversation as homework in my undergraduate class, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. One student, in fact, made a habit of doing a curiosity conversation every week for the rest of the semester.

Another student was so taken with the curiosity-conversation idea that she conducted her own random-assignment study to see how helpful others would find the experience. Compared to spending the same amount of time looking up careers on the internet, students gained more clarity about their future goals by having curiosity conversations.

There is a saying that when one door closes, another opens. Right now, students are hearing doors slam shut, one after the other. Help them look for the open doors and explain how they can, even now when they cannot leave their homes, start knocking on new ones.

Angela Duckworth is the founder and CEO of the education nonprofit Character Lab. Join Angela and learn more about the science of curiosity at Educator Summit on July 22.


The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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