Innovation, creativity, and connection in the midst on a pandemic
By Zubair Kassam, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
In March 2020, when schools around the world had to close their doors to keep students, staff and their loved ones safe, at STS we made a firm commitment to our families: a promise to not only finish the school year and cover the required outcomes, but to continue to provide enrichment and a strong sense of community while ensuring our students flourished and succeeded.
To meet this lofty and at times daunting challenge,teachers, administrators, and staff came together with a common purpose in mind – the result was RAPID. While the acronym ‘RAPID’ – Remote Alternate Program Instructional Delivery – is now synonymous with STS’ plan for delivering high quality online instruction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the adjective ‘rapid’ – happening in a short time or at a fast pace – aptly describes how quickly teachers and students took up the gauntlet to innovate, create, and connect in a virtual learning environment.
This was no small feat for teachers and students to move to online learning mid-year, within a matter of days. It was not always easy or ideal but when students or teachers faltered, their peers boosted them up. Together we said, “We are STS – we will learn from this and we can do this together!”
These are just a sample of the many ways that learning became dynamic during RAPID, and how our community continued to create exceptional learning opportunities despite navigating a new world overnight.
During their ‘Small Crawling and Flying Creatures’ Unit of Inquiry, Grade 2 students in Ms. Adair and Ms. Wagstaff ’s classes went on a virtual field trip via a special Zoom class hosted by Ms. O’Toole and her husband. They explained their collection of various snakes and reptiles, sharing information about what each of them needed to survive in the wild. Some students had family members join in, and all participants asked great questions. Then, inspired by the presentation, students undertook their own research projects.
Students in Ms. O’Neill’s Grades 7 and 9 classes used Flip Grid to share their learning online. They explored and learned features of the app together, recorded and shared their learning, and videoconferenced to assess each other’s work. It was a creative way to learn, while gaining confidence practicing public speaking skills.
In the IB Design Program, students created computer-aided design (CAD) models of chocolate bars then 3D printed them. Ms. Wellwood assembled kits with food-safe mold making products so students could turn their models into custom silicone molds to make real chocolate bars! A key piece of the assignment was to share their prepared chocolate bars during a Zoom class, reflecting on the strengths and limitations of casting as a manufacturing process.
Undertaking a virtual Antarctic expedition was an incredible opportunity for Grade 6 students to extend their learning beyond marine animals such as penguins and leopard seals, to how explorers prepare for unexpected storms and manage risk. Mr. David German, who spoke at our Honour Day in 2019 about his journey to the Antarctic where he followed in the footsteps of Ernest Shakleton’s expedition, created an iMovie presentation with stills and videos. Students learned about what to pack and what their cabin aboard the ship would be like. Mr. German toured them through Antarctic geography and marine life. They even encountered the sudden sweep of a storm and had to ‘return’ to South America on a plane departing from a science base! Students then drew on their knowledge of Shackleton’s amazing survival story and their epic adventure with Mr. German to create images, stories and songs based on the themes of determination, collaboration, courage, and flexibility.
Students in Ms. Roth’s Grade 7 English class learned about the elements of a short story by creating an online role-playing game. She wanted to create a more interactive and engaging experience and her students were keen to try something new! As they worked through the elements of a story, they created their own playing cards. At the end of the unit, the class participated in a tournament, using all of their cards as their deck. The students had a lot of fun - and when a local game store heard about this exciting project, they generously donated starter magic packs to interested students.
During their final unit in Social Studies 30-1, a unit on the role of citizens, students in Mr. McKay’s class focused on the ideas of change and what a more perfect society would look like. To better understand how to achieve change and the challenges citizens face, students researched a historical movement, how citizens fought for change in the past, and presented their work as podcasts, papers, or through interviews. Mr. McKay asked his students to take their learning one step further, to draw on what they had learned throughout the year and explain how they would change something about society today to improve the way people live.
As part of their Unit of Inquiry, Grade 4 students explored the impact of human actions on local and global communities and the environment. In their efforts to make the world a better place, students prepared speeches to combine advocacy and education, revealing fascinating facts and the potential for a bright future. Normally students would present during the annual Speech Day, but this year, to continue the time-honoured tradition, Grade 4 teachers posted the speeches online to share their learning.
Instrumental Music students in the Middle School moved from learning as an ensemble to individual learning sessions with their teacher, Ms. Roy. They developed musical proficiency and Ms. Roy was able to personalize the learning for each student’s unique learning ability and style. Students asked questions, practiced particularly challenging pieces, and learned from their mistakes. While immensely valuable, everyone looks forward to the thrill of performing in front of live audiences soon in the C.A. Smith Arts Centre!
In a similar vein, Senior School Advisors took advantage of the dedicated Advisor Block to meet advisees individually, to respond to unique concerns and questions, and to give students collective opportunities to socialize and de-stress. Advisors saw the importance of focusing on the socio-emotional health of students during this challenging time.