Virtual School has challenged the way we teach and learn. This is especially true in science where experiential, inquiry-based learning is at the heart of the learning process. To be successful our community must be willing to persevere and adapt. Simulations and thought-experiments have become increasingly important, but we must not forsake physical experimentation that produces empirical evidence.
Sewickley Academy: Resource Blog for Parents
School closures – not a problem! Since 2015, Sewickley Academy has been a 1-to-1 school, meaning every student in Grades 6 through 12 has their own laptop computer, and teachers have engaged in what is call blended learning, using the power of technology to support enhanced learning opportunities for students. In the time of mandated school closures in Pennsylvania due to the coronavirus pandemic, this foundation has meant a fairly seamless transition to Sewickley Academy’s Virtual School, where our students and their teachers have continued teaching and learning remotely.
In all grades, Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12, teachers challenge students with age-appropriate material, whether that is the exploration of a student’s own back yard and the honing of observations and recording skills or the assignment of a particularly difficult problem in calculus (a subject that has become central to projecting not just the growth rates of the coronavirus but the growth of those growth rates). While students engage with the curriculum to strengthen their problem-solving and communications skills, they also practice the resilience and adaptability that we, as educators, seek to build in them.
In the Lower Grades, teachers provide their students with instructions from the day using quick videos, and focusing the day’s activities on a defined set of goals. In all grades, our teachers are using Zoom and other conferencing tools to engage in a combination of real-time, synchronous, engagement with their students for discussions or question and answer sessions, as well as to support students’ social and emotional health in Lower School homerooms and in Middle and Senior School advisory groups. At other times, students work independently and at their own pace on whatever problem or project that has been laid out for them. Using MySewickley, the school’s learning management platform, teachers and students in Middle and Senior School can communicate, share resources, assign and turn in work, and receive feedback and grades.
While these are still early days in our virtual learning environment, the response from parents and students has been extremely positive, with one parent comparing the experience of her Sewickley Academy student favorably to that of her college student, who is currently taking all classes on-line. At Sewickley Academy, we are proud that we have the capacity and the demonstrated ability to deliver an incomparable education experience for our students even under challenging and ever-evolving circumstances.