PETERBOROUGH — Traditionally, ConVal’s Kindergarten classes have relied on play-based, hands-on learning and group work, which can be severely limited during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
ConVal teachers and principals have answered this challenge, innovating classroom techniques while staying attuned to students’ social-emotional needs. At the same time, kindergarten enrollment has been at an all-time high of 145 students even despite the uncertainties of the pandemic.
“It’s vital that students start their education journey in as strong a way as possible, and I’m grateful that the pandemic has not gotten in the way of kindergarteners starting their school journeys,” School Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders said. “COVID-19 definitely has created hurdles for our students and the district, but our principals and teachers have worked hard to come up with new classroom strategies that have benefited some of our youngest students.”
The first task throughout the district was deciding how to use physical classroom space while allowing social distancing. Each student has his or her own work area. At Peterborough Elementary School, Kindergarten students sit at individual desks rather than typical cooperative learning tables. “We were curious how this would work,” Peterborough Elementary School Principal Larry Pimental said. “It has been neat seeing how much the students have taken to having their own space. They feel like they are ‘really in school’ now.”
Students are good about following mask protocols and staying in their assigned areas, or “pods,” though some teachers call them “ponds.”
“Ponds are only big enough for one student,” Katherine Lescarbeau, Kindergarten teacher at Antrim Elementary School, said. “We turned something necessary into a fun addition to our classroom.”
When the weather was warmer, many students had class time or lunch outdoors.
“I really enjoyed our almost daily class picnic lunches on the lawn,” Hancock Kindergarten teacher Katelyn Goodington said. “I had more opportunity to organically teach about the weather than I otherwise might have.”
Susan Ellingwood, a Kindergarten teacher at Dublin Consolidated School, manages a bird feeding station and teaches about commonly found local birds. “Daily ornithologists” record birds that visit the feeder, and report observations at the morning meeting.
“My greatest success is that the students in my class are happy,” said Leslie Hodgen, Kindergarten teacher at Greenfield Elementary School. “They are engaged and ready for learning despite the obstacles that make school look different this year.”