Indian Creek teachers and students have thrived in a hybrid learning format this school year by focusing on strong relationships through connection and innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
Director of Curriculum and Instruction Sarah Allen has seen teachers and students succeeding with resilience, adaptability and commitment to connection. “I think our teachers are really incredible about making connections with kids,” said Allen. “So, no matter where the kids are learning, they know the teachers are on their side, the teacher is their advocate. I think we’ve also done a really great job at finding activities that translate well to this format. We’re not just trying to do our normal activities, which might lead to frustration, but adjusting our instruction so that the kids are finding success. I also think the kids have had an incredibly positive attitude. They’ve really brought their best selves, and they’ve been really flexible, and that has allowed us to find a lot of success.”
By putting teacher-student connections at the forefront, learning has flourished for students whether they’re learning from home or learning at school.
Indian Creek’s early childhood teachers reimagined many aspects of the play-based learning at the center of the curriculum to keep students learning safely and effectively. Where students used to work in groups, they are now provided individual resources both in the classroom and at home, giving them the ability to engage with sensory bins, morning activities, peace place bins and more. Math classes have been held outdoors when possible, and teachers have used pool noodles on the sports fields to recreate ten frames in an innovative approach dubbed “massive math.” Reading groups have continued with in-classroom students distanced and virtual students joining via Zoom.
Head of Lower School Jen Malachowski has seen students and teachers embrace the new learning formats and flourish in them. “The reason we have been so successful is because of our innovative teachers and our resilient students,” said Malachowski. “We put connection among students, teachers, and families as our top priority. Our teachers still bring joy to every day. We have distanced dance parties that include in person and virtual students. Recess continues to be the best time of day. I have been so thrilled to see our students coming up with innovative and physically distanced games that keep them running, laughing and connecting with each other.”
In the middle grades, student have experienced increased success through available technologies. Use of Microsoft OneNote has been impactful for fifth- and sixth- grade students, who have blossomed as writers in a streamlined approach to organizing and practicing their writing. “I run a nearly paperless classroom now,” said Middle School Librarian and English teacher Amy Coleman. “I can put articles, research organizers, project directions and more in OneNote. The students can pull up their work from class and have their tutors or parents see what they are working on and how they are doing, and it’s all in one place. I can see what the kids are writing in real time as they are writing it. I can write comments to them and give feedback on their work in real time. So I am constantly giving kids real-time feedback on what they are working on without us having to get close to each or even be in the same space together.” The result has been successful engagement and progress from students at all ability levels, and Coleman sees continued use of the technology moving forward. “The kids love it,” said Coleman. “OneNote has made hybrid learning work really well, and we’ll continue to use it even when everyone is able to return to in-person learning.”
At the high school level, teachers have likewise pivoted to available technologies that have kept students engaged whether they’re in the school building or at home. Patricia Roth’s biology classes, widely adored by students, have continued to spark engagement and collaboration through the use of PearDeck, a cooperative online presenting-and-responding platform. English students in Jimmy Monack’s classes have online access to class summaries they can review any time. Glenn Klakring created individual equipment kits so his physics students can conduct laboratory experiments at home. In all cases, teachers have adapted lessons to maximize engagement for all students.
In addition to praising the resilience and adaptability of the students, Allen said the teachers have risen to unprecedented challenges with aplomb, doing everything possible to maximize student achievement. “Our teachers have been such unbelievable rock stars,” said Allen. “They are thinking about this from every single angle. They are constantly adjusting, constantly collaborating, constantly evaluating to make sure every single child is finding success.”