Tag Archives: pandemic

A Pandemic Field Trip

We want what we don’t have. At least I do.

I’m craving travel, exploration, connection, shared experiences, the opportunity to get out of the rut of the ordinary. So are my students.

Living and teaching during a pandemic is no picnic. But all of you know that. Uncertainty and change are the only constants…along with masks, hand washing, and physical distancing.

After three weeks of distance learning, my students came back to school last week. Sort of. Part time. I love, love, love having my students in the classroom again. But…

I have half of them at a time. One shift in the morning and a second shift in the afternoon after the janitorial staff comes in and disinfects the classroom. The AM group works independently in the afternoon from home, the PM group does the same in the morning before they come to school. And I am exhausted trying to keep up!

In spite of this hybrid schedule, I want students to have a rich and meaningful learning experience each and every day. I want them to think deeply and for curiosity to be an insatiable itch that only more reading, writing, observation, and investigation begins to scratch. I love to combine rich content with opportunities to explore, create, and connect. Science is often my go-to.

With the Pacific Ocean outside our door and plant and animal adaptations on our list of science standards, it makes all kinds of sense to study our local kelp forest. Macrocystis Pyrifera has become the basis of our study, the algae on which we build our knowledge.

We’ve done some reading, watched a video, and looked at some photos. Most years we head down to the beach and take a close up look or a parent heads in with a bucket full of these amber jewels. But not in coronavirus times.

So what could I do to breathe some life and variety into the learning in this hybrid classroom? What could I do to energize my own planning and teaching?

I decided on a field trip. Wait…the virus, the pandemic. I’m not even allowed to have all my students in the classroom at the same time!

Virtual field trip to the rescue.

My students don’t come to school on Wednesdays. I host a morning Zoom meeting with the entire class and then set them off to work independently for our minimum day. But this week, Wednesday became our field trip day.

I remembered that the Monterey Bay Aquarium had live cams and a huge kelp forest tank, so I headed to their website to see what kinds of opportunities might exist for my students. I uncovered a wealth of resources! This is a place I had always wished I could take my students to visit, but it is halfway up the state…well out of reach of a field trip even in the best of years!

So how would I organize this virtual field trip so my 8 and 9 year old students could access these resources independently? After some trial and error, I decided to create a slide deck to guide them through a variety of activities. I assigned some specific activities and offered choices for others. And to slow them down and encourage close observation and focused attention, I provided a paper packet for note taking…with a reminder that we will use these in class next week.

I know I was more excited about this virtual field trip than they were–there was great disappointment when they learned we weren’t actually going anywhere! But first indications suggest they did have fun…and learn some things. I’ll know more on Monday!

In the meantime, maybe you are in need of a field trip and an immersion into in the kelp forest. Here’s a link to my slide deck.

So, I didn’t get to travel…but I did get to explore and dig myself out of my usual lesson planning routine. I watched sea otters frolic, jellies undulate, and giant kelp sway. And I’m plotting how to put my students’ new found knowledge about the kelp forest ecosystem to creative use in the classroom next week.

I’m also already thinking about that next virtual field trip. Where should we go? What should we study? If you have great ideas about places with a variety of resources, I’d love to hear all about them!

What I Keep Learning: NPM20 Day 4

This piece in progress was inspired by What I Learned this Week by Angela Narcisco Torres. While it doesn’t yet feel finished to me, it does have some ideas that I am happy to have captured.

What have you been learning as we all do our best to shelter-in-place? Those of you who are teachers, what are you learning as you work to support students through some kind of remote learning?

What I Keep Learning

What matters when your students are names on a screen

Rather than physical beings that you see and interact with each day?

When you hear the echoes of their voices 

Through typed comments

That pop up continuously throughout what used to be the school day.

Quiet students are still quiet

Rarely leaving a trail of their thoughts or needs

And body language is no longer

A text to be read

The chatterers still chat

Loud and long, filling my inbox

With every possible question, ‘sup, and emoji 

They tap their chat to me, to each other, to themselves

Filling empty ears with imagined sounds of school

Assignments matter now more than ever

I see the ways the mundane

Assignment-for-assignment-sake

Deflates, dissipating energy

Leaving us all unsatisfied and wrung out

Like that washcloth left on the edge of the sink

We need learning opportunities that connect us

Build on experiences and passions

Each student holds close

Allowing ideas to soar and words to take flight

Writing matters, that’s what I keep learning

®Douillard

SOLC Day 26: It’s the Little Things

The days feel long right now…and not in that endless summer kind of way. Being homebound means that each day feels a lot like the one before, experiencing little change in scenery. With the beaches, parks, and trails closed my walks involve treks around the neighborhood. I get my cardio exercise, but inspiration and scenic beauty are sorely limited. I’m enjoying the cool crispness of early morning walks, but I don’t find myself motivated to stop and pull out my camera to snap a photo or two.

Zoom meetings, student comments, lesson planning, emails to writing project colleagues, clearing that inbox that has building up all week…the hours vaporized and the knots in my back tightened (is there something called Zoom back?). Around 3:30 I noticed an email from a dad of one of my students…and much to my delight there was a short note…”A” wanted to send you this photo she took today. As I scrolled down the image emerged! An egret perched on a chain link fence overlooking the seashore.

I felt a surge of pure joy! I love the photo–and seeing the egret and the beach were a shot of nature that I have been missing since the beach closures earlier in the week. (I have been staying away–trying to do my part to keep the virus at bay.) And it was heartwarming to know my student knows me so well. After almost 2 weeks of remote learning, this student knew how to share some remote caring. She knew I would love this photo…and she is right! Thanks A…you made my day! It really is the little things that matter most.

SOLC Day 23: Making Connections

We’re still at it–the “it” being remote learning while our schools remain closed. On our 6th day I’ve learned some things that I didn’t know when we started this last week.

  1. Remote learning is not the same thing as teaching. I’m able to push out learning activities and provide feedback, but I’ve yet to get the teaching part in order.
  2. Technical glitches are a given. There is a constant barrage of technical questions from my students and their parents. Where is the attachment? It says file not found! My attachment won’t load. Where do I do my writing? My stream is gone!
  3. Related to number 2, we are lucky to have responsive tech support in my small district! Today my email cries of help were met with a productive Google Meet session with one of our tech team members. I got help troubleshooting, established a reasonable work around, and even squeezed in an extra question about Google Meet!
  4. I love Flipgrid! Posting a prompt each day–both written and as a video that I make as an invitation–allows my students to show each other a glimpse of their interests at home. They seem to enjoy it…and so do I. I just wish there were a way to comment that wasn’t limited to making a video back. (If any of you know a workaround for this, please share!)
  5. My students love to chat! I knew that they loved to chat–as in verbalize–in the classroom. But I learned quickly last Monday just how much they love to chat (like texting) on the Google Classroom pages. Which also means that I’ve been thinking about ways for them to connect that are less annoying that hundreds of emails in my inbox.
  6. So today, I decided to schedule an impromptu classroom meetup through Google Meet. I posted a note on our classroom page, letting kids know a couple of hours in advance that I would post a link to Meet…and gave brief directions about how to get on. I decided not to email parents this first time, just see who would come and figure out from there how it would work. Right on time, about half my students along with my co-teacher and our science teacher starting to pop onto my screen. At first with no volume…but eventually at full volume. I was able to get them to all mute themselves and then I called on them one by one to unmute and tell us all how they were and what they were doing. They absolutely loved being together…and then toward the end of our time one student discovered the chat feature–so I explained where it was to all of them and let them go wild chatting. Emojis began to fly along with the Hi and I’m here kind of posts they seem to love best. I gave them a one minute warning on the chatting and then wished them all well and signed off. I’ve already had an email from a parent thanking me for making her child’s day!
  7. I still haven’t figured out how to get everything done–including my report cards–in a reasonable time . But I know more about how to manage this new learning context than I did last week. I’m thinking about how to use our Meet tool in two different ways–one for a sort of “recess” like today, and another to support student learning in more specific ways. I’m still worried about the kids who are not as present, staying on the fringes of this remote learning thing. Are they having tech problems, are their parents too busy trying to work from home to help them, are they home alone without help? I hope to answer some of those questions in the days to come.

What’s happening in your learning context? How’s your homeschooling or remote learning going? What is working for you? What isn’t? What connections are you making?

SOLC Day 14: Finding a Poem

My face-to-face meeting with directors of California Writing Project sites all over the state became a Zoom meeting in light of the Corona virus pandemic. I was not looking forward to hours in front of my computer screen, I knew I would miss all the informal opportunities for conversation and camaraderie. But I was wrong. Today’s meeting was energizing and comforting and brought much-needed connection and shared experiences with others who can relate in a world that is suddenly so filled with uncertainty.

Our rich conversations had me jotting down phrases, words I couldn’t forget. And during my beach walk this afternoon, they started to become a poem of sorts. So here’s the early draft…not quite done, found in the words of my colleagues.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE

Just Wait

 

In a roiling cauldron of virus brew

we swim

blindly dodging infection

unwilling to get out

sure if we can’t see it, it’s not there

 

The pandemic spreads

morphing from fear of illness

into a pandemic of disappointment:

canceled events, weekend plans, the coveted spring break

we resist–just this once, I’ll be okay

wash your hands, pump the hand sanitizer

 

It’s time for each of us to listen loudly

to hear voices of those at risk

each of us is a single brick, interlocking, interconnected

whether we want to be or not

 

Distance physically

but not emotionally

wash your hands, cough into your elbow

cancel your plans and check on your neighbor

find ways to inject an inoculation of connection

without passing the virus

 

Write more, read more

Facetime with Grandma, phone call to Dad

and wait…

®Douillard

 

(And an image from this afternoon’s trip to the grocery store. Empty shelves are so unexpected!)