A Close-Up Look at Distance Learning

A Close-Up Look at Distance Learning
  • Makers
Mary Kornegay

In a show of remarkable institutional agility reflecting our Lead From Here framework, Ravenscroft faculty, staff and students moved to distance teaching and learning last week in support of community efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Here are just a few exciting highlights of the many innovative and interesting approaches faculty and staff took in the first week. 

Lower School 

  • Read about distance learning in the PreK program in this piece by Betsy Barnett.

  • Michelle Schulze: When shifting to a virtual classroom, I decided right away that I wanted to keep two things the same. First off, I still needed to provide some sense of normal structure and routine every day for my students. So, we begin each social studies class all standing for the Pledge of Allegiance and the Ravenscroft Honor Code. Secondly, I still needed to provide some sense of fun and humor in my class. So, I pop on my powdered wig and transform into the colonial version of Mrs. Schulze, teach the day’s lesson and end class awarding a silly sticker to each student who engages in the activities I’ve planned.

  • Danny Carlson: One resource we’ve been using is GimKit, which is great for increasing student engagement while practicing essential mathematics skills. The game format allows for team or individual play, and the students have the option of using “power-ups” to help or hinder the scores of other players/teams. I can use this as a resource for formative assessments or just an engaging way for students to exercise their knowledge.

 Middle School

  • Josh Gallagher: All of the seventh-grade World Geography teachers have partnered with the Keim Center library staff on a project exploring contemporary challenges in Central and South America. Students are doing research at home to uncover topics of interest, and they haven’t missed a beat. They’ve gotten great support from Maria Ramusevic and Anna-Claire Bousquet for everything from tracking down information to creating infographics.

  • Read about two seventh-grade biology field trips in this piece by Marcia Ostendorff.

  • Amie McCall: Inspired by the video diary kept by the protagonist in “The Martian,” I am having my Middle School Digital Media class document their time in “isolation.” I have asked students to film four to six minutes of their lives while out of school — what school looks like now, what family time looks like, venturing out and about, and even a bit about how they are feeling. I thought this would be fascinating not only as a project now but also as something they could look back on 10 or 20 years from now. 

Upper School

  • Michael Erikson: I am adopting a “flipped” classroom model for most of my math classes. Prior to class, students watch a 10-20-minute video of me or another teacher from the course conducting a lesson. To ensure that students are watching the videos and taking notes, they are asked to take a picture or video of their completed notes and upload it to their Google drive class folder. When students report to class, I give them a small collection of practice problems to assess their understanding of the notes. They can work on the problems on their own or peel off with some others into a different Hangout. After the warm-up and asking questions, students are free to work on homework. They do not need to remain in the classroom to do this. 

  • Anna Lawrence: For my computer science classes, I have chosen to focus on human connection over the technologies we’re using. What that looks like in the computer science classroom is planning five-minute one-on-one appointments with each of my students to ask them: (a) How are they doing with life in general?; (b) How is their project going, and what challenges are they encountering?; and (c) How can I support them as they continue their work? In addition, we've been having theme days including “Introduce Your Pet” day and “Chrome Dino Jump Tournament” day to add elements of celebration to each day. 

Fine Arts

  • Amelia Karpowitz: In art, I’m providing students in Grades 1-4 a chance to complete one assigned project a week. I’m also providing students the options of completing a Free Choice project based on the resources, materials and interest they have at home. I’m seeing some remarkable work! I continue to teach fifth grade on our normal schedule, and I also have daily office hours… where I sometimes wear a Chewbacca mask just to keep it interesting! (Damien Luciano was my twin one day!)

  • Jason Sharp: Drama classes were already working on plays to perform next week. Upper School Drama is completing student-directed One-Act plays and doing a great job adjusting to this new virtual platform. We’ve also written original five- to 10-minute One-Act plays based on individual students’ emotional responses to artwork from the National Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art in Korea, which they visited via the museum’s virtual tour.

  • Learn about Ravenscroft’s “Living Room Concerts” in this piece by Cameron Bolin.


  • David Myers: Middle School P.E. has shared with students daily lessons that cover topics from the curriculum, such as cardiovascular endurance or flexibility. Students are asked to engage in the exercises (based on the space and equipment available to them), then review the information and write a reflection that shows their participation and learning.

  • Jim Gibbons: Strength and Conditioning coach Bo May has created two workouts for our athletes to use six days a week, one workout if the student has access to equipment and one without equipment. Coach May uses the TrainHeroic app to send the workouts, and the student-athlete can check off each exercise as they complete it and also record data as they go. We have also asked coaches to incorporate skill work into the athlete’s daily routine. For example, with baseball, I have asked our players to throw and catch five days a week and get at least 100 swings each day using a variety of drills we use in batting practice, hitting whiffle balls or just swinging the bat. 

  • Michelle Then: In response to a request from Head of School Doreen Kelly, Coach May and I developed some workouts for faculty and staff. Coach May and his wife had already developed a program complete with video demonstrations, so we were thrilled to be able to share that quickly. We’ve provided a variety of activities, including yoga. It’s been a great way to support our faculty and staff — and many of them have emailed to share updates about how the workouts are going and where they’ve found other free resources for staying active.

Got a great distance-learning moment to share? Email us with the details!