Hands-On Learning Thrives in the Digital Classroom

  • Makers
Hands-On Learning Thrives in the Digital Classroom
Mary Kornegay

Teachers remain committed to creating high-quality lessons and maintaining meaningful interaction with students during remote learning.

As Ravenscroft’s implementation of distance learning continued this month, our outstanding teachers remained committed to creating high-quality lessons and maintaining meaningful interaction with students of all ages. Here are some of the ways teachers of classes built around hands-on learning — from Lower School art to Upper School Honors Engineering — have kept their students engaged and productive across the digital space. 

Amelia Karpowitz, Lower School Art

  • First-graders drew a picture of their character from their grade-level musical “Wing It!” in a collaboration project with Mrs. O’Neill. This example is from Evan Strickland

  • Second-, third- and fifth-graders have worked on Radial Cup Weaving. While the cup and yarn were provided for students in take-home art kits before the move to remote learning (thanks to a couple dozen amazing parents!), when students ran out of yarn, they were able to get resourceful and use alternative materials from around the house. Here are examples from second-grader Sydney Shirley and third-grader Charlie Creedon.

  • Fourth-graders worked on completing a multi-week project we started before virtual learning began. Their “Tiny Tapestries” look amazing! We learned a tiny bit about the history of tapestries, observed a tapestry by Sylvia Heyden in our Hugh Morton Jr. Collection, and learned four different stitches: tabby, horizontal stripes, checkerboard and dovetail. Here are two examples from Xavier Rivera and Lilly Ramsey.

You’ve heard the expression “The show must go on”? It’s true — even during distance learning! Read how Mrs. O’Neill, Mrs. Hight and Mrs. Karpowitz are working to produce the Lower School’s traditional grade-level musicals remotely in this new Hub blog post

Janet Vande Berg, Middle School Electives
Think It! Design It! Make It! I and II

As one of the TDM teachers, I was lucky enough to have not done 3-D printing with the kids, so we started with that. Students are using Tinkercad and online CAD (computer-aided design) programs to create their designs. They went through a series of daily lessons and then undertook the challenge to recreate a famous landmark. I brought the 3-D printers home with me, and they are busy printing the students’ work. Examples of students’ work products: #1 and #2

We are now working our way through different challenges, in which students use design thinking and materials they have available at home to solve real-world problems or create products with real-world (and real FUN) applications.   

TDM I

  • Rube Goldberg Challenge: Sketch by Sam Caplan ’26

  • Making the Family Meal, Planning the Perfect Vacation, Redesigning the Morning Routine

  • Zoo Animal Habitat, Lady Bug Launcher 

TDM II

  • Students have worked through Inkscape lessons and will begin to make a poster for the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and a solution they might have. 

  • Coming up next, they will work on Creating a New Sport or Making an Arcade Game.

Art Journaling

In Art Journaling, students paint, draw and use other materials to embellish the pages of an old hard-cover book to create their own journal. I sent many supplies home with students in anticipation of distance learning. Each day we meet remotely, I give them new lessons or ideas that they can incorporate into their page designs. These have included: 

  • Stamps around the home: creating stamps with shoes, legos and other textured items

  • Using tissue paper and napkins to enhance a page

  • Using templates/rulers from scrapbooking or architecture

  • Fingerprint artwork

  • Toilet paper roll dandelions

  • Watercolor city doodles: Painting by Anastasia Knouse ’25

  • Drawing a mandala and painting a mandala

I didn’t know whether students would use the ideas, but when I did a page check it was nice to see that some of them are!

Nelson Nunalee, Upper School Honors Engineering

Honors Engineering is a course built around hands-on problem-solving. We typically finish the year with a product-design project where students are asked to identify a real-world problem or opportunity for which they can create a solution. Faced with no longer being able to do the project in the well-equipped Keim Innovation Lab, I felt strongly that I still wanted these students to finish the year with a similar hands-on opportunity built around full engagement with the design process. It occurred to me that I could assign essentially the same project at home and allow students to tailor their work to the resources available to each of them. By considering the constraints of their own tools and materials, each student would still have the opportunity to achieve success in their own context. 

So far, I am thrilled with the ideas these students have offered up, including:

  • a back pillow specially designed to help with all this extra time sitting at a computer

  • a cord organizer to help with all those tangled cords

  • a solution to clogged drains at storm water drainage ponds

  • a self-styled N95 mask

  • a custom bike rack for a car (Alex McNeill ’20)

  • a computer program to streamline the Community Service Board scheduling process

  • a robotic dog food/medicine dispenser

  • an environmentally friendly weed killer

  • a robotic hands-free lightswitch

  • a more precisely adjustable band for a wrist watch (Nate Margraf ’20)

Through individual check-ins and active collaboration in Google docs, I have been able to facilitate the process, with adequate input, while still allowing the students to take full ownership of their work. I am very excited to see what kind of solutions and products they achieve in the coming weeks!