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Distance Learning: Covid Challenges and Creative Solutions

As we approach the one year anniversary since COVID first surfaced in Europe and started impacting our ISP community, we collectively celebrate the persistence in continuing to look for creative solutions to the unprecedented challenges extended Distance Learning poses for students, parents, and employees.  

In broad strokes, based on feedback from all parts of the community, the following are ISP’s current key strengths and biggest challenges in terms of Learning, Wellbeing, & Belonging, as well as highlights of efforts to tackle those challenges.

Learning

Key Strength: Teachers have become increasingly intentional about and focused on  learning priorities to maximize the time with and attention of the learners. 

Key Challenge: Performance and practical learning areas continue to be extremely difficult to facilitate in authentic, relevant, and engaging ways. 

Young scientists learn to carry out scientific investigations, draw evidenced based conclusions, and use their understanding of the challenges facing the world today to solve them. Obviously, the extended time in Distance Learning has required our science teachers to find creative ways to continue the learning in ways that are relevant and engaging.  

Mixing his humor, tech skills and science expertise, ISP’s Chemistry Teacher, Richard Thornley, has an immensely popular YouTube channel voted #1 by IB Diploma students worldwide. Mr. Thornley’s channel has over 54,000 subscribers with more than 16 million views! ISP students get him live on Zoom for their classes and can’t wait to get back onsite to experiments in the ISP lab.

Inspired by David Attenborough’s newest film, A Life on this Planet, Grade 6 students researched a current environmental issue of their choice, culminating in a presentation that they shared with adults from the community. Those of us who attended were inspired, not only by their learning and genuine interest in the issue, but also by their call to action. Asking them many probing questions, we realized the extent to which many of these learners were committed to continue with their learning and advocacy! Thank you Ms. Dadiego, Ms. CK, and Ms Riches for your guidance.

My suggestion is to have more things to do with your hands and not write because if we do them with our hands then we will get it in our head more easily and also it will be more fun.”  — Gr 3 Student

Wellbeing

Key Strength: The Wellbeing Team (counselors & psychologist) and advisors have instituted systems to monitor and support wellbeing. Key Challenge: We are concerned about everyone’s physical, social and emotional well being due to extensive screen time, extended social isolation, lack of physical activity, and limited access to engage with key areas of interest.

Madame Rangoni teaches Upper School French Students how to cook traditional French dishes (Bechamel sauce, Croque Monsieur and Crepes) while expanding their capacity to talk about food and culture. Learners enjoyed this change from sitting in front of the screen to engaging in cooking classes together.

Our Physical Education teachers are continually searching for ways to coach students forward and inspire them to increase their physical activity through challenges, games, and goal setting. They also are supporting students with their emotional wellbeing during their health sessions focused on stress management techniques. To the left is a capture of  “Fitness Monopoly,” a gamified way to encourage Upper School students to get physical activity.

“Both my children are benefiting greatly from having freedom to be creative and release any anxiety through the arts – particularly drama.” – Parent of MS and US children

And the show must go on, as Ms. Braun has told us. Please be on the lookout for more information regarding a unique approach to the annual Middle School drama production coming in March.

Belonging

Key Strength: All stakeholders value and are making efforts to connect and support each other during this extended lockdown.

Key Challenge: The warmth and inclusiveness of our community has long been lauded by new families and visitors. Maintaining that sense of belonging this year for the new members of our community (students, families, and teachers), with limited time or access to campus or face-to-face connection, remains a real concern to all of us. 

In an effort to nurture, maintain and extend a sense of belonging, this week in Upper School, there was a focus on sharing “shout-outs” of gratitude for what others had done during these extraordinary times. This was a lovely tribute to the efforts of one and all!

Thanks to the ISP Community Service Team who are collecting recipes from the ISP to create our own Cookbook! All proceeds raised from the book will go to local charities.

“I feel very lucky our kids are in ISP during these challenging times. Our fabulous teachers are still providing our kids the opportunity to continue their studies with relatively minimal impact to their overall learning journey – all whilst supporting and caring for their overall mental health & well-being. Huge thanks to all for their efforts and thank you for always being open to our students and parents feedback/opinions. It is greatly appreciated and very important for the greater community to feel that we can communicate with one another and be heard during these exceptional times.” – ISP parent

“As from the academic point of view I think it is going very well. Everyone is trying, children and teachers, and they are getting a lot of support. But from the social points of view there are not so well. Both of them are new in school and didn’t have the time to make new friends so I think the social distance is hard.” – Parent of two children, new to ISP

May we all dig deep to continue to find the patience and persistence to find creative  solutions to these ongoing challenges that we and the world are facing.

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