Seventh Graders Stay on Track with Their Global Studies

At the end of each online class, Nancy Smith asks each girl in her seventh grade Global Studies classes to turn on her mic so she can wave and verbally say goodbye to her classmates.
"Some will stay a moment, just for a personal good-bye. It’s okay. I miss them, too," says Smith, adding that preserving community is so important in middle school. "Every teacher in every subject area has that at the forefront of their planning," she says. The learning continues also. Each of Smith's lessons include a short video, text pages, and a primary source document for which students must submit answers to questions.
 
Throughout the year, Hutchison teachers partner with one another across grades and disciplines, and that continues. During the first week of distance learning, Nancy introduced the Russia unit with Stravinsky's The Firebird, the renowned ballet based on a Russian folk tale about a princess turned to stone and the magical bird that saves her. Nancy called on music teacher Leiza Collins for handouts and a music clip while dance teacher Louisa Koeppel supplied a link to a New York City Ballet production using sets and costumes by Marc Chagall. With this as inspiration, Smith had the girls create an artifact.
 
“We had masks, drawings, paper art, paintings—a wide variety of artifacts,” says Smith. “Being able to draw on the Fine Arts department started this Russia unit, and our distance learning adventure, off on the right foot.”
 
The lessons are both synchronous and asynchronous so the girls can fit them into their own schedules. But Smith likes to maintain structure, so when the class is not meeting “live,” she holds a video conference during the time when the girls would normally be in her class. Instead of Dobbs, Smith is sitting in her home office in rural Fayette County (sitting at a library table that belonged to her aunt, a teacher from 1917 to 1947).
 
"They are working independently, and I hang out in the video conference waiting for them to pop in and out. It’s kind of the equivalent of them working at their desks independently while I am at my desk," says Smith. "They come to my desk to ask me a question. Actually, it seems to work pretty well." 
 
Hutchison teachers, like their students, are resilient and rising to this challenge beautifully.
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Hutchison is the leading private girls school in Memphis for ages 2 years old through twelfth grade.