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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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3 COVID Changes Schools Should Keep

Kids on yoga mats reading by the water. Field trips to faraway places made possible through Zoom. A night of poetry under the stars with middle school students.

Educating students in a pandemic posed challenges for schools, and Corbett Prep administrators and teachers re-examined everything from classroom seating to lunchtime to specials and electives. But despite all the headaches, the adjustments inspired creative, new approaches to engaging kids. The growth mindset Corbett Prep faculty and staff embraced turned challenges into opportunities and gave rise to inventive solutions, fresh takes on traditions and a spirit of collaboration.

While it looks like 2021-22 will allow schools to move closer to normalcy, some of the changes COVID brought to school life prove to be worth preserving.

Outside Classrooms

Decks, patios, grassy spaces and nooks along a lake under the cypress trees on Corbett Prep’s campus offered numerous options for outdoor learning during the pandemic. Teachers put yoga mats on school supply lists and then planned lessons and reading time to take full advantage of the outside for distanced mask breaks.

PreK3 students sat crisscross on their mats for morning story time, as older students sprawled on the Middle School field and banks of the pond to read on their own. Art projects and science activities found new homes on decks and sidewalks as well as at picnic tables. Middle school students worked in small groups at tables on the plaza, which later included a temporary stage constructed for class performances and STEAM Symposium presentations.

Spending time outside continues to benefit students even as the COVID threat decreases. The change in scenery from the classroom helps students regain focus when distracted. It can improve moods, inspire creativity and increase productivity. Some research suggests that exposure to natural light is good for eyesight, too. An outdoor campus also provides a valuable extension of the learning environment, with plenty of plants and animals to observe and study.

Zoom Connections

Zoom fatigue is real. But the reason the platform became so popular during the pandemic was its ease of use and availability. Now that families and teachers are familiar with Zoom, it remains a great option for special purposes.

Last year, Zoom made it possible for teachers to take students on field trips across time zones. During an International Baccalaureate unit on farm-to-table, PreK4 students met farmers in Minnesota and Spain, all thanks to Zoom. Intermediate students learned about the legislative process from a state representative Zooming from Tallahassee. Bestselling authors discussed their books in Corbett Prep classrooms without leaving their homes.

Zoom let busy parents drop into their children’s classes virtually and read books, celebrate birthdays and attend conferences, from work or from home. Live streaming of student performances and virtual auctions opened up events for additional and even extended family participation.

Although we hope to log less Zoom time in 2021-22, Corbett Prep will continue to embrace the platform as a way to build connections and increase access to people and places otherwise out of reach.

Fresh Traditions

Before scheduling events and projects in 2020-21, teachers and school leaders evaluated cherished traditions and performances through a lens of health and safety to make allowances for large audiences and social distancing. At Corbett Prep, “the show must go on!” so the facilities staff built two outdoor stages for school musicals, class plays, the STEAM Symposium and the Middle School’s Poetry Coffeehouse, resulting in several peaceful evenings outside for families to enjoy student presentations and the arts.

The Student-Faculty Sports Challenge and 8th grade Powder Puff football game traditions at Corbett Prep gained new energy when they were moved out of the gyms onto the field. The Spring Fine Arts concert stayed indoors but received a makeover, splitting the whole-school production into smaller shows that gave each class more chances to shine.

Technology helped other classroom traditions evolve and gain new components. Sixth graders usually present research on historical figures as monologues to parent audiences. This year, they presented to classmates and edited video of their speeches to embed in Adobe Spark presentations they created to share. The fifth grade IB Exhibition included digital presentations on topics students researched in place of the traditional group display boards that invited crowds.

What will schooling look like throughout 2021-22? At Corbett Prep, we’re excited to welcome students and parents back to campus this fall, host gatherings and reinstate favorite field trips and excursions. Along with new traditions in reimagined spaces, we plan to hold on to the solution-seeking mentality that led to positive outcomes from lessons learned after an unprecedented year.


*Presented by Corbett Preparatory School of IDS | photos by Corbett Prep

Originally Published in August 2021

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