2020 has been a year unlike any other, challenging us all in new ways. SFS has been subject to several changes and adaptations as the government has advised different safety measures. At the start of this school year, we went from expecting to welcome all of our students back to campus to quickly needing to change and offering much of our instruction virtually. SFS faculty have shown incredible resilience when challenged with these multiple pivots. Just days before school was set to open with all students on campus, teachers were faced with the challenge of completely shifting their plans from in-person instruction to a hybrid model. The excitement of a new school year was quickly replaced with the disappointment of not being able to meet students and welcome them into classrooms.
Faculty members flexed their creative muscles and quickly developed teaching strategies that would engage students when they couldn’t be in the classroom. This often involved students engaging in activities at home that would normally be done at school, modifying their living spaces into makeshift learning spaces. Home kitchens became science labs, suitable for conducting experiments. Living rooms became sound stages, a place for students to record videos of their reactions and assessment assignments. Laptops served as collaboration spaces, where students could connect in Zoom breakout rooms, replacing hallways and communal gathering spots.
In virtual learning, some courses and disciplines are more easily adapted to the online format than others. However, courses that rely heavily on facilities and equipment can be a real challenge: what student has a private six-lane swimming pool, or their own personal 700-seat performing arts theatre? This challenged our faculty and staff to find new and innovative ways to engage and educate SFS students who were unable to be on campus.
When schools in Seoul were restricted to fewer students in August, access to our swimming facility mostly ceased. The Aquatics team was faced with a tough challenge: how can you teach swimming and water safety when you can’t have students at the pool? This required a clever approach. “The inspiration came from spitballing some ideas one morning around the office as to how to get kids back in the pool,” explains Cailen McNair, Schoolwide PHE Department Head. “The PE teachers and Swim instructors made it happen.” Sean Cary, Aquatics Coordinator, along with aquatics instructors Emily Daniels and Kirsten Gray, teamed up with PHE teachers Stephanie Mitchell and Caleb Hill to deliver lessons that were both relevant and informative. “When you can’t bring the students to the pool, you bring the pool to them!” says Caleb Hill. Instructors set up screens to conduct water safety lessons from the pool deck via Zoom to students at home. As restrictions have loosened, more students are now back on campus, albeit on a rotating basis. This on/off campus schedule has provided opportunities for aquatics instructors to enhance their already rigorous approach to water safety instruction, as students spend two days on campus and then two days off. “Students spend less time in the water overall, so we have more time for in-depth instruction on water safety,” explains Kirsten Gray. The teachers have created more visual displays promoting water safety that they built with student collaboration over Zoom, and are posted poolside when the students rotate back on to campus. This hybrid approach has allowed them to enhance their safety lessons, because they don’t need the pool to provide this type of instruction. Kids are practicing self-survival skills in addition to swimming strokes when they are at the pool in person. Focusing on self-survival principles, including those from the American Red Cross, like “Think So You Don’t Sink” prepares students to be more safety conscious, especially as they become more independent.
Virtual learning has impacted performing arts as well. The Lyso Center was silent for months while students were unable to come to campus. This was a challenge not only for on-stage performers, but for the behind-the-scenes crew who learn the tricks of the backstage trade. Before COVID-19, John Black, Theater Manager, gave backstage tours to Middle School and High School drama classes. The tours focus on showing and teaching students the "unseen" areas of a theatre. John explains, “I cover theatre architecture, major mechanical systems, the control booth, stage directions, and more, providing insight into how all of these elements support and create the magic for the performance that is happening.” This year, John recreated these tours in a video format, allowing students to learn the vocabulary while seeing, in short segments, the facility, systems and equipment. Additionally, John built the video lightboxes into an interactive webpage, which allowed a student to understand where the video topic "fit in" to the overall facility. “The initial idea was for me to give a tour live via Zoom, but decided to go this route as I could visually provide much more detail through integrating graphics and other media content,” said John. These videos will be available for reference into the future, and John plans to continue to add to the project. “I've also shared these resources around the region to my network of theatre managers, technicians and educators, who have been able to use them in their context as well.” Visit the interactive site yourself at www.crusaderlive.com/theatreterms.
Technology has been the foundation upon which much of this new educational approach has been built, facilitating connections between teachers and students and “in person” interactivity. Tools like Zoom and other video conferencing software have become integral to providing virtual learning opportunities during the pandemic. SFS has the advantage of having in-house Digital Learning Coaches (DLCs), who are experts in coaching and training teachers and students on the latest technologies.
Our DLCs, Heather Breedlove, Janet Hahm, Tanya LeClair, and Jillian Zappia, create authentic, engaging learning experiences for students and provide consistent, embedded professional development for teachers. With so many digital tools and platforms available, DLCs support the meaningful use of these tools to facilitate positive outcomes. Together with our teachers, they create opportunities for students to learn in ways that help them push forward and be creative in their own learning. They close the gap between the IT department and the user by translating technology into easy to understand language, creating “how tos,” infographics, resources, workshops, and more.
Our teachers and coaches have done outstanding work during the pandemic and resulting pivots to continue to deliver robust educational programming - even when students can’t be on campus.
- The Banner