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  • Fine Arts

    Posted by LAURYN GRIMES on 5/20/2020

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    Columbia Heights Public Schools (CHPS) students and teachers began distance learning Monday, March 30, 2020. Teachers and staff have been working hard to ensure students receive high-quality and engaging instruction during this time, but with a new learning process in place we’re all having to figure out the best way of doing things. Teachers have adapted their classes to be suitable for an online learning environment, each taking their own unique approaches.

    The Learn@Home series covers a number of subjects, highlighting how teachers have modified their days to promote optimal learning.

    Art can be a great way for students to be creative and de-stress during distance learning – and let’s be honest – our stress levels have been a bit higher than usual with all the change. CHPS art teachers have implemented new methods in order to teach art from home, providing students with educational and meaningful activities.

    Teachers at the high school level have created a structured and consistent distance learning process. A typical class involves using Zoom and Google Classroom to connect with students about assignments, questions and their art.

    Columbia Heights High School (CHHS) Art Teacher Sarah Honeywell said her philosophy and focus of teaching methods and styles have shifted – as it has for most – she shared two major focuses, the first being consistency.

    “I feel deeply committed to provide the students with something they can depend on when other parts of the world are uncertain,” said Honeywell. “We as a school are always dependable, but without a building, a bell system and a lunch room, it’s up to me to be 100 percent present to my students when they reach out.”

    Honeywell says the other major focus is providing enjoyable activities. “Students need something educational and meaningful to do with themselves while they are at home,” she said. “Since I teach the arts, I feel like this unique global experience provides us, as artists, the perfect rationale for why the arts are important. Essentially, the arts keep us entertained, inventive and connected as humans. We need these attributes more than ever before.”

    “I love seeing how students continue to innovate,” said CHHS Art Teacher Hannah Starke “I am seeing such sweet and thoughtful work from students.”

    The biggest challenge CHHS Art teacher Michelle Dietz – who focuses on sculpture, ceramics and basic design – are the limitations to supplies students might have lying around their homes.

    “While I can't teach ceramics or sculpture using traditional techniques, I can emphasize the perhaps lesser known traits of thinking like an artist such as problem solving and resourcefulness,” she said. “Students need to use these skills to be able to take their ideas and create finished artwork from them.”

    Dietz still tries to incorporate as many hands-on techniques as she can, they just involve different materials. “I assign students to use nature or recycled objects as sculpting materials and paper as a way to model clay building techniques.”

    Overall, CHPS art teachers feel students are adjusting well to this new reality. “I think overall they are taking it in stride,” Starke noted.

    Remember Hylanders, we’re all in this together! #HeightsPride.

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  • Physical Education

    Posted by LAURYN GRIMES on 5/14/2020

    Columbia Heights Public Schools (CHPS) students and teachers began distance learning Monday, March 30, 2020. Teachers and staff have been working hard to ensure students receive high-quality and engaging instruction during this time, but with a new learning process in place we’re all having to figure out the best way of doing things. Teachers have adapted their classes to be suitable for an online learning environment, each taking their own unique approaches.

    Our new Learn@Home series will cover a number of subjects, highlighting how teachers have modified their days to promote optimal learning.

    Hands on learning looks different in a Physical Education (PE) class -- teachers have to get creative to make sure students meet their daily physical activity needs while staying at home. Being active during this time is critical for a student's physical and mental well-being.

    In our now virtual learning world, a typical PE class period involves daily video workouts (some with no-equipment or using household items), reflecting on the workout and logging daily activity. Weekly reading assignments and quizzes about health, wellness and sports are also part of the online setting. Some PE teachers are beginning their classes with a question on a daily discussion board to provide a way for students to connect with one another during social distancing.

    “Our main objectives as a PE Department is for students to continue to be as active as they would if they were attending class 2-3 times each week,” said Columbia Academy (CA) PE Teacher Alicia Geske. “We understand how important physical wellness is at a time like this and its overall effect on mental and emotional well-being.”

    According to another CA PE Teacher Scott Opatz, adapting to this change has been difficult for both students and teachers. It takes time to adjust to a new routine. “Our students have been very adaptable,” he said. “They have done an extremely good job of taking on the challenges of distance learning!”

    The move to online physical education opened up some opportunities for students to participate in new workouts such as cardio kickboxing, hip-hop dance lessons, and HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts. Some students are even inviting their family members to participate in their daily workouts.

    Many students tune in to watch CA PE Teacher Brad Boleman’s YouTube workouts. These YouTube videos are a creative way to adapt to this new learning environment. “I had to modify what I am teaching to my students,” he said “ figuring out what is important for them to learn and do at home on a daily basis.” His favorite part of doing those videos is that students enjoy them!

    The daily workouts are becoming part of the students routine for fun and fitness. Continued flexibility for students as they adapt to this new learning style is a great way to support students. 

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  • Performing Arts

    Posted by LAURYN GRIMES on 5/6/2020

    Columbia Heights Public Schools (CHPS) students and teachers began distance learning Monday, March 30, 2020. Teachers and staff have been working hard to ensure students receive high-quality and engaging instruction during this time, but with a new learning process in place we’re all having to figure out the best way of doing things. Teachers have adapted their classes to be suitable for an online learning environment, each taking their own unique approaches.

    Our new Learn@Home series will cover a number of subjects, highlighting how teachers have modified their days to promote optimal learning.

    CHPS teachers are connecting with their students via Zoom, GoogleClassroom and a subscription music lesson platform called SmartMusic. SmartMusic makes it easier for students to engage in making music at home providing instant feedback to students. All students in band in grades 5-12 and choir students grades 6-8 utilize this program during their lessons.

    Teachers share objectives, lessons and check in with students. Students also send their music teachers recordings of their playing. “We listen to their performances and give them authentic feedback and suggestions for growth and development.” said Columbia Academy Band/Music Teacher Todd Boyd.

    Boyd mentioned the process it’s been to find the best way to teach students online. “If directions are too long or complicated, students can get lost easily. Providing self-made "how to" videos always strengthens the lesson,” he said. Just like in the classroom, we have students who learn in different ways (watching, hearing, doing). Providing multiple ways of sharing information is crucial to student success.”

    According to Elementary Band Teacher Ben Hanson, even though struggle is a normal part of these changing times, students are trying hard to keep up with the fast-paced changes all around them. “Many are struggling, but like we learn in band, struggle is the first requirement for growth,” he said. “As long as we keep struggling, we'll keep growing until we're strong enough to make things easy again. Then it's our job to find a new struggle to continue our journey as musicians and people.”

    Amidst the natural struggles, students are proving to be flexible during distance learning. They are learning how to navigate learning from home while developing new skills such as time management and communication. 

    Columbia Academy Theater Teacher Tara Lorence started her distance learning period with a unit about empathy. Her students took a few days to better understand the concept, then brainstormed situations people might be in right now that they could empathize with such as those struggling with mental health with no access to treatment, those with lost job struggling to pay for necessities, those with special needs unable to understand the changes around them and more. 

    “The responses were so thoughtful/insightful,” said Lorence. “It is amazing how much students pick up and understand the world around them even through a screen or from a distance.” 

    Columbia Heights High School Band Teacher Caitlin Storm feels everyone is adjusting as well (or better) than she expected. “This is not necessarily a fun way to teach or learn, but we are all giving each other a lot of grace and patience,” she said.

    “My favorite moment has been seeing the students really rise to the challenge of continuing to learn, even in this totally new learning environment. I'm always proud of our Heights kids, but I am especially proud of them now.”

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  • Science

    Posted by Communications Department on 4/30/2020

    Columbia Heights Public Schools (CHPS) students and teachers began distance learning Monday, March 30, 2020. Teachers and staff have been working hard to ensure students receive high-quality and engaging instruction during this time, but with a new learning process in place we’re all having to figure out the best way of doing things. Teachers have adapted their classes to be suitable for an online learning environment, each taking their own unique approaches.

    Our new Learn@Home series will cover a number of subjects, highlighting how teachers have modified their days to promote optimal learning.

    Science classes often involve labs -- a hands-on learning experience while in the classroom, but something that could be challenging to mimic in the virtual world. In order to maintain the connection to physical learning, many CHPS teachers are using videos in order to demonstrate experiments for students to then be able to write a claim, evidence and reasoning. 

    “I try my best to create activities that are engaging and fun,” said North Park Science Teacher Stan Mraz, who also noted the shared experiences with fellow classmates that enhance learning is something that is missed. “I try to keep lessons at an academic level where everyone can succeed on their own without having teammates supporting them as they do in the science lab”.

    A typical class period involves using platforms such as Seesaw, Flipgrid and Zoom to connect with their students. Assignments, activities and lessons are posted for students to complete. Each lesson typically involves a video and a reading. Teachers are doing their best to keep the routine of the classroom by maintaining the same activities like warm-ups and mindfulness before starting their work.

    Mraz says his favorite part of this new change has been seeing students who are typically quiet in the classroom blossom through distance learning. “Through Seesaw activities, many have shown their creativity in their writing, drawing, and video or recorded responses,” he said. 

    Columbia Academy Science Teacher Jett Johnson is also utilizing the use of video for science labs. “We have done a demo through video where students watch me set up and explain the parts then they write a hypothesis,” she said. “Then after students submit their predictions, they can see the demonstration happen!”

    Johnson said among her favorite moments is reading assignments and seeing student personalities come out in even the most simple answers! “They have written some pretty funny and shareable things! … Students are more self-sufficient than they show you in the classroom,” Johnson noted. “Assignments I have anticipated a flood of questions on have been completed without a single message or email!”

    It’s been challenging to maintain the classroom connection piece of the puzzle through this time of quarantine. However, CHPS teachers and staff are continuing to find what works, what doesn’t and how to continue to adapt to this new, virtual way of learning. 

    Remember Hylanders, we’re all in this together! #HeightsPride.  

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