Making the Best of Hands On Courses in Virtual Learning

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Chef G doing a virtual demo of poached eggs.

Nia Olukayode and Cora Thomas

Schools have been closed since the Spring due to the ongoing pandemic. For going on nine months now, Kenwood students have been attending classes virtually due to Covid-19. While some classes are an easy transition to conduct online through a computer, for some courses at KHS teachers have had to pretty much reinvent their courses for an online platform.

CTE teachers and performing arts teachers are two groups of teachers that have had to really get creative in how they do things. CTE and performing arts teachers do understand their students have never did online virtual learning and they’re doing their best to make it work for their particular courses. For example, Kenwood’s Theater teacher Jessica Taylor changed how she conducts warmups when students come into class. She shared, “Theatre is very hands on because we usually perform and rehearse in class in front of each other. We usually have warm up games and exercises as a class. I have tried to keep the routine of warm up exercises as best I can so we hold quick opening discussions and utilize interactive games like kahoot.”

CTE teachers understands their students wants to return to school because online learning limits their opportunity for the hands on, kinetic type learning they are used to in school. Sophomore Eric C is in Chef G’s cooking class and is really missing the cooking experience so many others have raved about for years. “I miss being able to cook with Chef G. We get to watch her cook but don’t get to experience cooking it for ourselves,” he shares.

Child Development courses is a popular CTE pathway at Kenwood. Students enjoy getting to take on the role as teacher with the small group of preschool students that attend their class. Child development teacher Abbie Reed she has been teaching the Child Development CTE classes for 21 years. But this year she has had to complete change how she conducts the course. “It’s individual work instead of group work. NO “hands on” learning because all students do not have access to supplies at home,” she shares. Kaylee G is in Ms. Reed’s Child Development class and adds, “Usually we would be able to interact with the preschool kids but now unfortunately we don’t get that experience.”

CTE and performing arts teachers are learning to utilize tools they hadn’t used much prior to virtual learning. Nicole Pennington, Kenwood’s chorus and choir teacher, helps has students use FlipGrid to record videos of themselves singing. “I’m using FlipGrid A LOT for recording purposes. My students have to record themselves once a week showing they’ve practiced the section of the music we are doing for the week. I’ve posted videos of the parts being played and of me singing each part so they can practice even without me there.” Last Spring she was also able to put together a performance video to share of students’ performances from home.

Kenwood’s well loved cooking classes with Chef G has also been a course that is not quite the same in a digital format. Students cooking together and the smells coming from Chef G’s is a fond memory of time spent in Chef’s G’s class but now it’s different. “We do demos. Students will be starting knife skills soon and will receive playdough to practice their cuts. We’ve used videos and interactive digital notebooks for the academic portions of the class.” Chef G is enjoying the togetherness that learning and talking about food brings but “The biggest missing ingredient of all of this is the teamwork, the soft and technical skill development that leads to stretching abilities, and especially the pride in watching yourself and others get better each day that only the shared experience of working in the kitchen together can bring. Personally, the further I get in my curriculum the more I miss being with the students because even though they may not know what they are missing, I know what this experience could be for them.”

The loss of in person learning is heavily felt in the CTE and performing arts courses but teachers and students are doing the best to make the situation work digitally until they can be together in person again to sing, perform, build, cook, teach, and all the others things students and teachers enjoyed doing together before the pandemic struck.