Lower School in Virtual Poly

At the Lower School Virtual Town Hall several weeks into Virtual Poly, Head of Lower School Francis Yasharian said that one of the challenges of Virtual Poly is “translating the magic of ECY (Early Childhood Years)” into virtual learning. “I am so glad the Lower School faculty has risen to the challenge.”

Head of Lower School Francis YasharianIn one update, Yasharian reported, “This week, we shared some wonderful moments online. Third grade rekindled their tradition of class reporter. Kindergarten had a big reveal of their ‘class star,’ complete with drumroll and envelope-opening. Ms. Schoenberger taught us about insect camouflage and created a whole series of at-home science experiment videos.”

Poly People FacultyDirector of Lower School Technology Stacy Hunter P’15 was inspired to see how the community came together virtually. “Families and faculty sharing resources and helping one another troubleshoot, literally in real time, was nothing I could have imagined prior. It’s been exhausting and exhilarating. In the end, though, I would say mostly what I see is how it has brought people together.”

Lower School teachers held virtual parent/teacher conferences in mid-April. Teachers also led 10-minute one-on-one check-ins with families, with the teacher talking to the child to find out how they were doing and to discuss what they were learning and questions they had.

“My sons have received great training in tech and use of the Virtual Poly platforms and functions so that they are mostly self-sufficient and know more about logging in and using the tools than I do,” said Blake Foote P’27, ’29. She added, “My third grader has really enjoyed the mindfulness classes. He said he learned some new ways to stay calm. Though he didn’t tell me, I could tell he enjoyed his dance class today where he practiced moving his body to different music and to represent different animals. He even picked up our cat to participate in the fun.” 

LS Virtual Poly student with work
Lower School Virtual Poly Student with work
LS Virtual Poly student work
LS Virtual Poly Earth Day art
LS Virtual Poly student work
LS Virtual Poly student work

Lower School parent Shirley Lee P’30, ‘34 has a Nursery student and second grader in Virtual Poly. “Both of my kids enjoy morning small groups, when they can interact more with their teacher and friends,” Lee said. “My second grade daughter really looks forward to library and Math Challenge. My son in Nursery has screen fatigue by the time afternoon sessions roll around, so attendance is hit or miss. The website is informative and easy to navigate—both kids can get onto their sessions by themselves, which I think brings a sense of empowerment.  My daughter can easily find her class page, homework assignments, and specialty lessons, which is so helpful when her brother is in session and I can’t assist her as readily. We’ve been happy with the rollout and appreciate how hard the teachers have been working to bring the classroom experience to the screen—especially the second grade teachers who have been so thoughtful about discussion, participation, and student interaction.”

The website is informative and easy to navigate—both kids can get onto their sessions by themselves, which I think brings a sense of empowerment.

Shirley Lee P’30, ‘34

“It’s been a big challenge to take our curriculum that we know so well and adjust it to virtual teaching,” said Grade 2 Head Teacher Sarah Davies.  “We’ve had to think about how to reach the students through this new medium, how to present it using new technology, how to collaborate with each other, and how to give feedback to students’ work. I think the biggest challenge for second graders in Virtual Poly in general is that it’s difficult to have discussions like we do in school.  The students have to indicate they want to say something and then they have to unmute themselves and then remember to mute themselves again afterward to cut down on background noise.”  Teachers offer office hours every afternoon “where students can meet us one on one virtually to review anything they’re not understanding.” Davies added,  “What’s working really well in Virtual Poly is that we can present the material on a screen right in front of everybody and they can see what we’re doing.  It makes for more focused lessons.  In social studies, for our immigration study, I’ve been able to zoom in on primary source images like a steamship ticket from 1910 and circle the cost of the ticket so students can see it.  I’ve been able to play oral histories from the Ellis Island website for students to listen to and then we can discuss it afterward.” 

“Sirena has really enjoyed solving science mysteries with Ms. Schoenberger, who conducts the class so seamlessly and engages the children throughout the lesson,” said Alex Azara ‘00, P’33. “Sirena also likes coming up with science questions they can explore.” Azara shared good advice about setting up for Virtual Poly. “I create a schedule for her every day and we have designated learning areas in our home to help distinguish between school time and free time.  The morning meetings are a daily reminder that all of her teachers and friends are still ‘there’ and the smaller group meetings make for better discussion and one-on-one time with her homeroom teachers.”

Matt Durando ‘96, P’30, who teaches Lower School PE, understands what it is like for many parents as he teaches class while his wife oversees both of their sons’ classes online. He was surprised how committed his students are to their lessons, how much they miss their teachers “and how much fun ECY is having with this!” Durando’s favorite lesson has been his virtual saltwater fishing trip with ECY as the children used creative movements at sea!