Understanding Memphis and Adapting to Distance Learning

Distance learning had minimal impact on the “Memphis unit," a third grade tradition at Hutchison. Plans for a Living Museum had to be scrapped, but the girls moved forward with promotional brochures, as planned.

The third grade Memphis unit is a way for girls to understand the city, past, present, and future, and learn fundamental research skills along the way. The girls completed the project from home, but they have been working on it since October. It was a familiar assignment, in the midst of many changes.
“The goal of the Memphis unit is for them to be knowledgeable of Memphis history, and learn research skills, collaborate with peers and empathize with others,” says third grade teacher Maggie Haire. “It is also an opportunity to apply literacy, math, and science skills.”
“The concept of a Living Museum has been a third grade tradition for several years, being tweaked year to year to best fit our curriculum,” says Mrs. Haire. “This year, even before COVID-19 came into play, we introduced a brochure to complement the museum and allow our community to have a physical take away.”
It started with Back Beat Tours and a historic walking tour of downtown Memphis. Back in the classroom, they used Memphis: A Children’s History by Perre Magness (a local historian and Hutchison alumna) to continue their studies.
“We wanted the girls to have an authentic and meaningful reason to learn how to choose a topic, research it, compile data, and share results, all the while applying spelling, editing, and revising skills that they learned earlier in the year,” says Mrs. Haire. The girls completed their Memphis project, while adjusting to distance learning.
“The girls and their parents have been terrific during this time,” says Mrs. Haire. “We understand the challenging task parents face, of both working from home and having children learning from home. We’ve tried really hard to offer high quality lessons that students are able to do almost completely independently.”

Teachers meet with students a few times a week for instruction in small groups using Google Meet for instruction. Larger groups meet for fun and fellowship.
Hampton Tayloe ’29 says she’s enjoying the flexibility. She likes printing off the schedule in the morning and being able to check off each section when she completes it. Cora Lee Pentecost ’29 also likes being able to finish her work early. The least favorite part about distance learning? The consensus is the girls miss not being able to be with friends and teachers. 
“It’s clear that the non-academic meets are just as important as the academic meets,” says Mrs. Haire. She and colleague Beth Robison host Fun Friday meetings, which are optional but very well attended. Ashton Guard, the other third grade teacher, and a triathlete, hosts an age-appropriate workout twice a week. Lower School Division Head Katharine Kent and counselor Andrea Lacher meet with each class on a weekly basis.
“We are trying to maintain a balance. The learning must continue in these virtual classrooms, but we also need to continue paying attention to the girls’ social-emotional needs, as we do throughout the year,” adds Mrs. Haire.

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