maintaining connection while apartContinued Learning During COVID-19
A seamless Transition
Talcott Mountain Academy’s mission has always centered on the pioneering use of technology to enhance learning and develop the innate creativity and curiosity in children of all ages.
Weeks before Connecticut mandated school closures due to the Coronavirus epidemic, Talcott Mountain Academy administrators, faculty and staff were preparing for the inevitable transition to online learning.
The result? A seamless transition to online learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic… and parents who are grateful to have chosen Talcott for their child’s education.
I know many parents are concerned about their children falling behind with online learning. I’m not. Talcott has done a great job keeping my child academically challenges and socially connected. I know he’s getting the same quality education that he was prior to COVID-19.
Transitioning to Online Learning
Getting students engaged in online learning without experiencing any downtime was a top priority for Talcott administrators. Weeks before schools across the state closed, teachers began preparing for the shift to online classes.
Communicating with parents often, and giving them time to prepare at home, was critical to ensuring a smooth transition. On-campus classes ended on Friday, March 13, and students were communicating with their teachers online and resuming classes the following Monday, March 16.
Effective Learning — from a Distance
Children learn differently in different settings, and early elementary students have different needs than middle schoolers. As such, our approach to distance learning had to be different than how we would teach on-campus–with special attention to grade-specific needs.
Our core tenets included:
- Maintaining the student/teacher relationship
- Creating structure for students, including built-in breaks to allow for time away from the computer and physical movement
- Continued learning in all subjects — including music, art and foreign language
- Providing academic and emotional support and resources to help reduce stress
Maintaining the Personal Connection
The teacher/student relationship is a key component to an effective learning environment. Consistency is also critical–especially when so many other areas of their daily routine are changing. As such, we knew it was important to maintain the personal connection between students, their teachers and classmates.
To do this without overwhelming students with screen time, our teachers committed to having classes meet virtually several times per week as standard practice. This face-to-face interaction would look different for each subject and every grade.
Our youngest learners share artwork and other at-home projects, read stories together and connect with their friends. In Language Arts, upper suite students have thoughtful discussions about required reading. In music, students meet for one-on-one lessons with their music teacher.
Keeping it Creative & Making it Fun
In addition to online discussions and virtual lessons, Talcott teachers are creative about how they interact with their students.
Kindergarten students get together for ‘Lunch Bunch’ with their teacher and their classmates, and everyday household items become part of hands-on science exploration as students conduct experiments at home– engaging them in the learning process. Students even participate in PE from their living rooms!
Talcott’s Student Council has also been actively engaging students with fun events including a Talent Show and ‘Spirit Week,’ which was also a fundraiser for Foodshare.
Making it Special with Guests & Online Events
Our teachers set clear expectation for students in their classes, but integrating the unexpected keeps students engaged and excited about learning!
Since distance learning began at Talcott, students have:
- Participated in two Virtual International Invention Conventions with students from across the globe including China, Ukraine, Indonesia, Canada, Mexico and the UK.
- Attended live, interactive discussions with industry-leading Talcott alumni. Topics included data science with alum from Salesforce; and creating Hollywood visual effects with facial motion capture.
- Had ‘surprise’ guests drop-in on classes.
Other Opportunities to Learn & Explore
Talcott students are avid learners… and we encourage them to use their downtime to explore the subjects that interest them most. To encourage this, teachers have provided parents with a list of online resources for families to use to enhance their at-home learning during this time. The Talcott Mountain Science Center also has a list of learning resources for students in Grades K-8, including virtual museum trips, live marine explorations, and many other unique learning opportunities. You can find them here.
The advantage of a small school is that teachers are deeply invested in my child’s learning. I can be hands-off because they’re so hands-on.
Student & Family Support
The transition to online learning was a major change for students — but they weren’t the only ones having to adjust. Entire families were left reeling by the statewide shutdown that occurred due to COVID-19 and the resulting disruption of school, work and everyday life.
We knew that successful distance learning wasn’t just about how we structured classes and schoolwork. It was much more than that, which is why we were committed to providing multiple levels of support for students AND their parents along the way, including:
- Virtual meetings with teachers and parents
- Continued weekly advisor meetings with students
- All school morning meetings (students and parents)
- One-on-one Zoom meetings with students and families as check-ins, to help with academics and organization, and/or referral assistance
- Driveway visits to families
In this virtual world, it’s important to invest in my child’s education. Talcott is worth every penny.