As we enter the last month of the school year, we’ve just learned the news that Minnesota schools will remain closed and distance learning is to continue to the end of 2019-20 year. Here at RCLS, this announcement coincides with our recent survey and evaluation of our Remote Learning program for students in Preschool-Grade 8. Altogether, then, this is our collective moment to take a deep breath, fine tune our plan and processes, and gather the strength to finish well.
To that end, I want to offer here a small database of articles and resources––inspired, in part, by some parent comments and questions on our recent survey. The results of that survey were reported to school parents in an email message yesterday, and minor adjustments to students’ Remote Learning processes have been or will be communicated via classroom teachers. What you’ll find in this article serves to address relevant matters that were not necessarily common concerns and won’t impact the current Remote Learning plan, but these are important concerns, nonetheless.
How much school should we do at home? Should we try to replicate a school day?
Your child’s teachers still are implementing their established curriculum, even if the method of delivery is different. In that way, you can rest easy in that you don’t have to devise goals or construct content that is alignment with grade-level learning standards. While your teachers cannot replicate the classroom environment, they can offer you core content and professional expertise so that your children can continue to learn. Your children are in good hands in this regard, even if their school day is not as long as it would be if school were in session as usual.
Take a peek at this New York Times article or this NPR piece from last month, both of which offer tips for structuring a school-at-home day and a reminder to be gracious to yourself and your child. One of these articles includes some ideas for enrichment, if you should find that your child would benefit from it.
Still wanting a little more school time? Let your child connect with friends via Zoom, Google Meet, or Facetime. What they likely are missing out on the most is the social interaction at school, a matter of great consequence for the social/emotional well-being of all of our youth, who are accustomed to learning in a social context.
How might parents use this pandemic as a lesson in social responsibility for their children?
Many have written about the potential fear that this pandemic and the related school closure and social distancing measures have created for young children. I’ve read a lot of great articles, but I think Spark & Stitch’s approach to using the current situation as a lesson in social responsibility stands out as a particularly productive response. Among many of the other positive outcomes of this challenging time is the possibility that we can raise a generation of socially conscious, compassionate children who act for the good of others, and not themselves. While opportunities for service are more limited at home, we can use the time to shape an understanding that underlies a sense of responsibility to others’ good.
What good might come of this period of social distancing for our teens and families?
The stay-at-home order has been challenging for most of us––in some ways more so for teenagers than for anyone. How can we leverage this time so that our teens and our relationship with them flourish? Read this simple but helpful reminder that this is an unexpected opportunity to create a new normal and healthy rhythms in our family life.
What screen time rules make sense now?
This is a legitimate concern, one that is founded in an abundance of research that warns against excessive “screen time,” especially for young children. At RCLS, we have always emphasized the functionality of “tech." Tech is not an end to itself, RCLS’s Tech Instructor, Mr. Nelson, has said, but it is a tool. At the moment, tech is the means by which we may finish the school year, so technology––“screens”–– are proving to be a very functional tool, indeed.
The child development experts at Spark & Stitch Institute propose that the answer to the screen time question starts by reframing the question. Instead of asking ‘How much screen time should kids have right now?,” ask, “What is the best we can do right now to keep ourselves safe, connected, and healthy during this crisis?” Read their thoughtful response to this question to find an answer that makes sense for your family. You might also consider Common Sense Media’s recommendations, which include relevant concerns such as “content quality,” creative capabilities, and the issue of maintaining a balanced use of screens.
What might we do to offer quality enrichment opportunities for my child?
Based on the survey results and the idea that we continue to implement the established curriculum, we think our teachers are offering an appropriate academic workload for the great majority of our students. Still, we know that in our population of students, there are some looking for more challenges, and now that our students are missing out on extracurricular activities, some of them have more time on their hands than usual. Consider this list of resources as enrichment opportunities for filling some of that time.
Early Childhood/Early Elementary( K-2)
In their Facebook Private Groups, these classroom teachers are already offering a lot of wonderful ideas for enrichment, so that is a great place to start. There are also some online resources linked from each of their Classroom Pages on the school website, and RCLS Music and Tech teachers are providing weekly lessons as optional enrichment opportunities. Otherwise, try these:
Foundational Learning: Some of you are enjoying the online resource, ABC Mouse. RCLS has an access code that is available for your use. Not sure what that is? Post in your classroom private group, and I’ll share it there.
Spanish: Mrs. Stone says there are a lot of resources out there, some better than others. She has shared some of these in her newsletters that came to your email, but you also might try this fun music with Early Childhood learners (Spanish and PE at the same time!) or the Basho & Friends or El Perro y El Gato YouTube channels for language learning content.
Movement/Science: We also love our local Rochester Mom for the wealth of ideas and activities they produce for young families. Recently, they published this great Nature Scavenger Hunt, which is timed just right for some productive learning time outside.
Middle Grade (3-5)
Spanish: Mrs. Stone recommends Duolingo for older elementary (and middle school) students. We know not every student has the bandwidth to keep up with Spanish learning during this time, but some of them might be excited to keep on learning.
Literature: Ever the encourager of literary adventures, Mrs. Strohschein recently got excited about Minnesota’s announcement of a “statewide book club.” The first book selection is the wonderful Because of Winn-Dixie by Minnesota author Kate DiCamillo. This delightful novel depicts “young people dealing with tough realities, but learning how to move forward nonetheless.” Sounds about right for now, doesn’t it? (We think younger and older students might enjoy this book, too. How about a family read-aloud?)
Reading this book right now comes with additional advantages:
1. Local libraries are to hold “virtual book discussions” for the book of the month. Rochester Public Library has a book discussion scheduled for May 21, and they tell me that there will be a statewide virtual chat with Kate DiCamillo at some point, as well––date yet to be determined. Even if your child has read this book in the past, this offers a particularly rich engagement opportunity for young readers and a good reason to read the book again. Exciting!
2. Kate DiCamillo has published nearly 30 books. Once your child (and you) finish Winn-Dixie, you may move on to any of her other marvelous narratives.
3. Finally, Because of Winn-Dixie was made into a movie in 2005. Family movie night, anyone?
We think the opportunities associated with reading this title right now might motivate even the reluctant reader. Don’t have the book or don’t want to purchase it? You can check it out via Libby or Ebooks MN from the Rochester Public Library site. You also can find a reading guide and other resources on a One Book/One Minnesota homepage.
Middle School (6-8)
Mr. Nelson recently emailed school parents with two enrichment opportunities for middle-school students.
Math: Mathleague.org will be hosting a middle school math contest on Wednesday May 13, 2020 for students in grades 6 through 8. Written testing will consist of Sprint, Target, and Team rounds, and some subset of students will be selected to participate in an interactive Countdown round. The contest will be held online, and the cost will be $15 per student. If you love math and would like to engage in a little competition, then check out all of the information at MathLeague.org Competition.
Critical Thinking: Breakout EDU, which designs educational "Escape Room" games that we have used at RCLS, is hosting a daily gameshow-style live opportunity for students. Each weekday at 1:00 pm, students may take part in the fun. There are even prizes to win. More information, past episodes, and access can be found here: Breakout Live Information.
We were disappointed to hear the news that we must continue with Remote Learning rather than to meet again on our campus, even if this was expected news. To be sure, this has been extraordinarily taxing for both teachers and parents, alike. Still, we are all in this together, and we wouldn’t rather do this with any other group of families. We’ll make it, RCLS!
“Take courage, dear heart,” C.S. Lewis’s Aslan once said––a sentiment he surely echoes from Joshua 1:9. The Lord your God is with you, wherever you go (or learn, as the case may be).