Academy of Thought and IndustryActon AcademyActon Academy West AustinBloom PreschoolCorazón Neighborhood PreschoolCOVID-19creativityGriffin SchoolHuntington-Surrey SchoolInternational School of TexasLake Travis STEM AcademySkybridge AcademySpeech-Language-PlayWonderWell

Creativity and play in distance learning: Alternative schools help Austin kids thrive during COVID-19

For isolated theater kids, unable to mount their productions in person, Skybridge Academy’s Brian Oglesby is donning a new costume each day to turn the ordinary into something a little more special, explaining that there’s a lot of joy in this innovation-by-necessity:

It’s like we’ve landed on this desert island. It sucks on this desert island. When we discover that by rubbing a couple of sticks together, you can make fire, there is triumph and a certain joy. Sure, it would be better not to be stranded, . . . but in the meantime, look at this cool thing we did.

Oglesby adds that his students are developing flexibility and even more creative thinking in a school that prides itself on always pushing boundaries. “Other schools are having to cancel their productions, and my heart breaks for them. We’re trying to figure out how to perform through video conferencing. It’s going to be its own weird thing, fit to the form.”

Play and child-led discovery—from giant bunnies to a virtual Earth Day

Lulu Bautista of Corazón Neighborhood Preschool offered us some valuable insight into her deeply held beliefs about the value of play, creativity, and discovery. Lulu calls what she does “Respite Care,” and it helps relieve children’s anxieties. It’s clear that lessening anxiety is one of the most important aspects of creative engagement in all the schools we surveyed.

How do schools do it? At Corazón, they use both tactile and virtual learning:

We’ve taken a trip to the moon . . . the children “hand” me items through the screen to pack in our group bag, and then we all buckle in our seatbelts and blast off, calling out the things that we see along the way and floating around our screens in slow motion! We’ve used our magic wands to turn each other into everything from sleeping robots to gigantic bunnies.

Tactile, “real world” play that moves kids away from screens for part of the day is a priority at many schools. For Bloom Preschool kids, dancing together and reading together are as necessary to the curriculum now as ever, even though it’s done at a distance.  At Acton Academy, educators are creating care packages of project supplies and other items that help with inspiration. Skybridge is putting together weekly “grab bags” of science and art supplies. And Ashley Reinhardt says WonderWell’s teachers have designed experiences around easy-to-get household items as well as curated learning kits they provide. For example, they give little ones who need some fine-motor-skill development an ear of corn covered with coffee grounds and a toothbrush!

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