Still Learning Together While Apart
by Erika Norman, K-5th Math Teacher
Friends School has always been a place filled with smiling faces, connected families, and layers upon layers of learning. Whether it is learning how to be a good friend through intentional discussion and practice, how to solve a variety of math problems by running a coffee cart before school, or diving deeply into an area of interest and presenting that to the entire school through the annual Area of Expertise presentations each Spring, Friends school has never been a place filled with random worksheets, but a place where children get the opportunity to create and think and problem solve.
But now we are home, separated from each other physically and that preschool phrase, “friends together, friends apart” has never been more true than right now. However, what has also never been more true is our teachers’ desire to collaborate and make connections for kids so that this time of remote learning continues to be project based as much as possible allowing for creativity, challenge and discussion.
The most recent example of this lies in the first grade’s geometry unit on 2-D and 3-D shapes. Instead of resorting to worksheets that identified spheres or rectangular prisms, I collaborated with first grade teacher, Zoe and art teacher, Bryn to challenge students to create something using materials at home that demonstrated their understanding of these math concepts. First graders watched video lessons created by the teachers, had discussions, listened to read alouds, and brainstormed geometric shapes and forms in art to draw their math creations or robots. Just for fun, students also named their creations and acted them out – alternating on and off screen as their creation and their first grade selves. All of this work culminated in a live Zoom session to share the final product. There was laughter and amazement and mathematical conversation even across computer screens. From simple creations to intricate ones, the students were engaged in content (math, literacy, art) and connected to their communities.
These types of learning opportunities are happening in lots of grades just like they would if we were still on campus. Teachers are collaborating online to plan and strategize how to engage students from afar and make those cross curricular connections. Second graders are creating projects with certain dimensions to connect to their measurement unit. Other classes are examining data and art by looking outside their windows and drawing and graphing what they see. Explorations of fractions are happening as families are cooking together. And students are engaged in their own Area of Expertise research projects just like they would be at this time of year.
We may be friends apart, but we are still learning together and as much as possible in meaningful ways. Please enjoy our first graders’ amazing 3D creations.