Elementary Online Community: Fun and Challenging for All

April 24, 2020 / Andrea Wenger
Erika Gascho's fifth grade class made a video of Some Good News, building on the popular SGN videos posted by John Krasinski
Erika Gascho's fifth grade class made a video of Some Good News, building on the popular SGN videos posted by John Krasinski

Older students reading on video to younger book buddies. A photographic nature walk. Students sharing photos of helping at home, kitchen creations, completed assignments. “Show and tell” via Zoom or image folder. One-on-one FaceTime sessions.

These samples of the hundreds of interactive hours of content created by EMS teachers in the last month of online learning show dedication and commitment to building a true virtual community during the COVID-19 closure.

“Staying connected even though we are apart takes a combination of student interest, parent involvement, and teacher guidance. Some days ‘click’ for everyone, and other days are harder,” observes Maria Archer, EMS K-8 principal. “Our goal as teachers is to meet families where they are at.”

“We recognize parents are juggling working from home and having their children out of normal routines,” continues Archer. “Our students miss each other and their teachers. Face-to-face interaction, with online meetings or videos, helps students stay more engaged in learning and each other, and confirm that they remain a part of the EMES community.”

The whole K-5 community continues to share a weekly experience through Archer’s “Gathering” videos, which include a story or school tradition, such as the annual Easter week passion walk. See the videos

Lynette Mast‘s kindergarten connections include a weekly Zoom gathering. “This week we all shared something and then drew together using a ‘how to draw’ site that one student wanted to do with his friends,” she says. Mast, or one of the other teachers, reads a book on video each week, she offers FaceTime one-on-one session. “They love to show me the things they are doing.” That may be family activities, something in their home or a result of materials she has placed in their online learning folder of original videos and activities.

Hannah Bailey‘s virtual show and tell invites each student to share an item and description in a Google folder so “they can show what they are working on at home and finished products of things I’ve assigned,” she says. “The pictures have been flooding in and they just warm my heart.”

Heidi Byler, third grade teacher and elementary team leader, hosts a weekly group Zoom meeting. It is a space to keep up with their birthday circle tradition in which each person says something they appreciate about the person having a birthday. “Third graders take this very seriously,” Byler notes, “and this is our gift to each other. I am so glad this has been able to continue even while we are physically distanced from each other.”

She also hosts smaller group meetings so she can focus on individuals fully. “It means you can see all their faces at one time even if on a tablet or Chromebook,” she’s learned. In these meetings, she notes she has had the privilege to:

– see many drawings and pieces of art created.
– watch an amazing dance routine.
– observe lots of virtual background switches.
– witness the softest-looking baby chick.
– listen to what they are playing and reading and making.
– learn about bike rides and backyard croquet games.
– leave the meeting and let them keep chatting, laughing, trying on Halloween costumes, eating snack and generally being completely goofy together.

“They are my hope, and I am even more grateful for them than ever before.”

Fifth grade students have been enjoying teaching each other during virtual class meetings, reports Erika Gascho. “So far, we’ve learned how to draw, how to code in Python, and laughed together during a make-up tutorial gone wrong,” she reports.

Students also created their own version of the hugely popular SGN (Some Good News) series on YouTube with John Krasinski. SGN responded to their Instagram post, “This is a teacher curriculum we can get behind!”

And, “the fifth grade teaching assistant, Mr. Elliot, is special to all” reports Gascho about the family dog.

See a sampling of EMES videos, including PE teacher Kendal Bauman sharing an original story with stuff animals around the school, weekly Gathering videos, and more.

Dirt Play Dough Recipe from Erin Williams, art teacher
Dirt Playdough

2 cups white flour
½ cup salt
2 tablespoon cocoa powder, optional
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-4 tablespoons used coffee grounds, optional
3 drops red food coloring
3 drops yellow food coloring
2 drops blue food coloring

1. Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan.

2. Whisk until smooth.

3. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until dough forms a clump.

4. Put playdough on a plate to cool, kneading occasionally so no crusty spots form.

5. Once playdough is completely cool, store in a lidded bowl.

Play suggestions
Fill small flower pots with dirt playdough then poke silk flowers into the playdough to create beautiful flower arrangements.

Use with construction vehicles.

EMS During COVID-19
See the latest news from EMS, including community life and learning during the coronavirus closure

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