Skip to main content

ASU offers 5 weeks of free virtual programming over winter break

Innovation Week and Innovation Quarter will provide students, families and the whole ASU community a multitude of learning sessions

student at a laptop
November 19, 2020

Winter break is a time to refresh and relax, and this year, instead of expanding your waistline, Arizona State University invites you to expand your mind.

ASU is offering five weeks of free virtual programming to engage students, families with kids and the entire community in learning activities covering topics from social justice to the zombie apocalypse to cookie decorating. 

The catalog of learning opportunities includes nearly 200 activities, which range from single, 15-minute sessions to courses taking place over multiple weeks.

The break begins with Innovation Week on Dec. 7-11, with dozens of sessions that capture the mindset of how ASU was named “No. 1 in Innovation” six years in a row. Participants can learn about design thinking or become facilitators of ASU Spark, the homegrown innovation process that empowers teams to untangle workplace problems. 

The goal is not only to involve the university community but also to showcase ASU to the public.

“This is an opportunity for prospective families to dip a toe into ASU’s innovative waters,” said Natalie Goebig, associate director for enrollment services communications.

“They can experience for themselves what ASU has to offer when it comes to innovation.”

Innovation Quarter runs from Dec. 14 to Jan. 8, with activities including resume building, preparation for graduate school, media literacy and study abroad. Some sessions tap into urgent global issues, such as water sustainability and vaccine development, while others, like “Christmas Bake-a-Long,” are just for fun. Learn about mindfulness, empathy and how to cultivate cultural intelligence. 

Some of ASU’s top experts will share their knowledge. Nadya Bliss, executive director of the Global Security Initiative, will discuss the high-tech gadgets in the James Bond movies and compare them to real-life government research. Liz Lerman, Institute Professor of Dance, will show how dance can unlock innovation. And Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Weil Family Professor of Journalism Len Downie will talk about holding power accountable.

Many activities are open to anyone, with some reserved for specific audiences. One workshop teaches professors how to use gamification to prevent students from turning in late work. A weeklong “coding academy” is for grades K-12. ASU students can learn how to become COVID-19 contact tracers. 

Several sessions are live on Zoom, some are asynchronous — able to be accessed at any time — and others are a hybrid model, combining live content with “homework.” There’s also a series of micro-podcasts, a movie club, a book club and a craft session on how to make stress balls.

Registration is open now.

A sampling of the scheduled activities: 

The Sparky Design Challenge is a weeklong competition that invites the ASU community to help Sparky become a technologically enhanced superhero. The Sun Devil mascot design will not change, but teams of students, ASU employees, fans and alumni will compete to re-imagine what Sparky can do at football games. Cash prizes will be awarded in each category, and the winning team will work with engineering students to bring their vision to life in time for the 2021 season, according to Becky Parke, senior associate athletic director, who is responsible for the game experience. “We want to make this a real working idea that we can use during football games to enhance Sparky,” she said.

ASU Prep Family University is a week of sessions tailored to K-12 parents, according to Betsy Fowler, executive director for strategic initiatives at ASU Prep Digital. “We want to focus on helping families thrive in a digital or hybrid environment. Families are more involved in their children’s education than ever before,” she said of the program, a partnership between ASU Prep Digital and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College that aims to continue after the pandemic ends. Sessions will offer parents a chance to collaborate, provide digital resources and discuss social-emotional learning. “There will be breakouts by grade level so they can meet other parents facing similar questions and challenges,” she said. Parents will help design a process of sharing resources that could be scalable. “We hope it’s a model that could be replicated in different districts throughout the state to leverage the infrastructure and resources we build,” Fowler said.

“Sunrise Light Walk” will be led by Miki Garcia, director of the ASU Art Museum. Nearly all of the activities are virtual, but this one is a socially distanced, 90-minute walking tour at 7 a.m. Dec. 22 that explores different concepts of light on campus. Participants will receive a copy of “Traditional Stories of Light” an all-ages coloring book that’s a collaboration of the museum and three Native American artists. 

“How to Talk About Race in Today’s Climate” is an hourlong session for people who are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Jacqueline Martinez, an associate professor of languages and cultures, will discuss ways to avoid common pitfalls when talking about race.

“Behind the Scenes at Decision Theater” will showcase an ASU resource that deserves to be better known. This two-hour session will let participants interact with Decision Theater’s software models that are used to train diplomats to deal with crises. “You’re in the hot seat. What choices do you make?” said Keren Hirsch, project manager for Decision Theater. “It’s done in such an immersive way. At the end, you get a reflection panel of your choices.” The workshop is open to anyone, but the goal is to educate faculty and students, Hirsch said. “We want to show how faculty can interact with Decision Theater in many different ways — visualization, data analysis, modeling,” she said. “And students can understand complex systems, which they might not have as part of their education.” The team is hoping to draw more student interest in applying for jobs at Decision Theater. 

“Virtual Campout with NASA” is a three-hour evening activity for families on Dec. 12. Participants download the Space Center Houston app to learn about space exploration before doing the guided star-gazing experiences. 

“Enriching Your Own Life by Expressing Gratitude” is a 90-minute workshop open to anyone. It will teach participants how to express gratitude in real and symbolic ways as a means of staying grounded and positive. 

"ShapingEDU Winter Games" is a four-day set of activities that will actively address the question, "Where do we go from here?" Join a global community of changemakers who seek to shape the future of education and community planning, and learn about new technologies and approaches that are accelerating positive changes.

Top photo by Jared Opperman/ASU

More Arts, humanities and education


Collage of illustrations from short stories

ASU collaborates with Horizon 2045 to explore a post-nuclear existence in 'Far Futures'

By Bob Beard For nearly a century, nuclear deterrence theory — a paradoxical concept that nuclear weapons somehow make the world safer — has dominated the geopolitical landscape, informing…

People sit facing each other at tables in a classroom setting

Maryvale students tackle community challenges through public policy lens in statewide showcase at ASU

Local middle school students saw their civics lessons go beyond textbooks as they proposed real policy solutions at a recent competition at Arizona State University. ASU’s School of Public Affairs …

Woman stands on a stage flanked by two high school students.

ASU Gammage celebrates young Valley artists at high school musical theater awards

High school graduates Max Perez and Nora Palermo were awarded Best Lead Male and Best Lead Female at the 2024 ASU Gammage High School Musical Theatre Awards (HSMTA) late last month. Their next stop?…