ACDS has implemented a robust distance learning program for all its students, grades K-8, during the COVID-19 crisis. This spring, Kindergarten through fourth graders participated in synchronous lessons and received asynchronous video lessons and assignments daily. They also received weekly instruction from each of their special subject teachers: art, music, drama, Spanish, library, and PE. Believing that maintaining social connections with peers is essential to our students’ well-being, we also held virtual morning meetings and provided video lunch bunches, virtual field trips, and other opportunities for our Lower Schoolers to connect socially.
Middle schoolers, grades 5-8, began each day by meeting with their small group advisory or, on Mondays, the entire Middle School division. Students received asynchronous video lessons and assignments in each subject four or five times per week plus one or two daily synchronous lessons via Zoom each day that rotated amongst their math, science, language arts, Spanish, and social studies classes. Teachers were also regularly available for Zoom office hours to work 1:1 or with small groups of students. Middle schoolers also continued to receive weekly assignments from their current trimester Arts course teacher (music, art or drama) and their PE teacher.
Each morning parents and students received a daily checklist of tasks to be completed that day. These checklists were meant to help students pace their day, and included tasks for morning meeting, reading, writing, math, and science or social studies. Art, music, drama, Spanish, library and PE teachers posted assignments on Mondays to be completed over the course of the week. All instructions and materials were located in Google Classroom and SeeSaw. Each Lower School student was sent home on the last day of regular classes with an iPad and charger so that they were able to fully participate in our distance learning program.
Students had scheduled whole class Zoom meetings and lessons as well as Zoom small group and 1:1 sessions with their teacher throughout the week. Lower School Zoom Schedule for Whole Class Events
Lower School teachers creatively transformed spring events such as the first grade Author’s Tea, second grade Hero Day, and third grade Poetry Reading into online formats so that the students didn’t miss out on these beloved ACDS traditions. The annual fourth grade play was also produced over Zoom. Students meet with the Director of Theatre Arts weekly over Zoom to rehearse and then film the production. Using individual home sets, virtual backgrounds, and found costumes, fourth grade students brought their play to life from their homes.
During this time of physical separation, it was more important than ever that we maintain the closeness of our community and help our students remain connected to one another. Some lower school grades began each day with a live morning meeting, while others chose to gather as a class later in the day, but either way, they still maintained that important daily social connection in addition to their synchronous class time. Teachers also worked to provide some Zoom buddy activities with their Middle School buddy grade so those important connections between older and younger students weren’t lost. Room Parents and other parent volunteers also organized lunch bunches and other virtual social activities so students could connect socially. Many Lower School teachers also traveled to each of their students’ homes for an outdoor, physically-distant visit.
The Middle School program consisted of both synchronous classes and asynchronous lessons daily. Middle School students began each day with a meeting with their Advisory group; the entire middle school division met on Monday mornings. These meetings were a time to connect socially and explore topics relevant to their lives and their school community, including friendships, health, effective learning habits, ethics, social justice, and service.
Students received video lessons and assignments in math, language arts, history, Spanish, and science in Google Classroom four or five times per week. Each class also met one time each week on Zoom for a 60-minute synchronous lesson, and students gathered on Zoom for small group work as well as 1:1 meetings with teachers. Additionally, students received lessons and assignments from the PE and Arts teachers. Students who are in Drama this trimester for the Arts elective also had one weekly Zoom class period. Middle School Zoom Schedule for Synchronous Lessons Each Middle School student was sent home on the last day of regular classes with a MacBook Air (6th -8th) or an iPad (5th) so that they were able to fully participate in our distance learning program.
Beginning in fifth grade, students give a speech each year to assembled parents, teachers, and peers. This annual capstone experience, called Speeches and Sweets, takes place in the spring and provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate their writing, speaking, and presentation skills in progressively sophisticated ways, until their speech resembles a TED Talk in Eighth Grade. Although we had to transition to remote learning before our fifth, seventh, and eighth graders were scheduled to deliver their speeches this year, our students, with the support of their Language Arts teachers, delivered their speeches live over Zoom to their classmates, parents, and extended family members. Having sweets to eat afterward is part of the fun of these events, so room parents assembled packages of goodies and arranged for parents to pick them up ahead of the event so each student had a treat at the conclusion of the virtual event.
One of the hardest parts of having to operate remotely was having to make changes to how we traditionally celebrate our graduates. Although they were not able to travel to Puerto Rico, we were able to maintain many of the other spring events and traditions that were meaningful to our soon to be graduates. The Class of 2020 participated in a virtual Field Day and the Awards’ Day Ceremony took place on Zoom. With some creative thinking, we were able to hold an in-person graduation ceremony using our parking lot and the front steps of the school. Graduates and their immediate families waited in their cars and one at a time, they joined our Head of School on the front steps to hear their tribute read and receive their diploma. The event was streamed live so that extended family and friends could watch in real time from their homes.
Students in grades K-4 received weekly assignments from each of their art, music, drama, Spanish, library, and PE teachers. Fifth graders received twice-weekly assignments from their Spanish and library teacher as well as the teacher of their Arts elective (drama, art or music) this trimester. Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders were given online PE lessons as well as projects from the teacher of their Arts elective (drama, art or music) this trimester. In the great theatrical tradition of “the show must go on!”, our Director of Theatre Arts and our music teacher worked with students to produce Zoom versions of the 4th grade play and 7th & 8th grade musical, Peter Pan, Jr.
What Parents are Saying
“Emily and I would like to say thank you for your work. Max and Evelyn are happy and challenged…We just wanted to say we think you’re doing great under difficult circumstances. Emily and I want them to get a full school year in and it seems to us we are headed toward that goal. Keep it coming.” – Ian B., 2nd & 4th grade parent
“The remote learning is a great tool, and we are quite impressed with how smoothly ACDS made the transition. Truly a great accomplishment to keep the students focused during some stressful times. A special thank you to Scott and all those directly involved with launching the web-based learning!” – Sean M., 8th grade parent
“Just wanted to send a quick note and thank you for all of your hard work this week. Thank you for the awesome curriculum you all have provided and the glimmers of happiness provided with the Zoom calls and connecting points. It really helps having a structured day for our kids and to also see you and their classmates faces. Alex was sad to get off the virtual field trip today but had such a blast while on it! He loved it and was excited when I told him he gets to do that every Friday!”
– Jennifer A., 1st grade parent
“Within just days of schools being ordered to close in mid-March, ACDS was up-and-running effective distance learning. Not just virtual “enrichment” lessons on previously taught subjects, but ACDS teachers were actively continuing curriculum as if our daughter was still in school, sitting in her classroom. ACDS teachers adapted to daily on-line, live lessons and interactions with students by using the most current technology for a seamless and cohesive transition. The school year continued and new learning continued, which created a positive experience for our daughter. We cannot thank the ACDS staff and leadership enough for making distance learning lemonade out of COVID lemons.” – Heather L., 5th grade parent
“I’ve been meaning to write something more elegant, but I am sure you understand the time constraints. Bottom line. You ROCK!!!! I am so impressed with how quickly ACDS was able to pivot to online instruction. The teachers are improving their proficiency every day.” – Lawrence N., 1st grade parent