This year has been quite a unique experience for all of us, especially our students. With the arrival and spread of COVID-19, our students had to adjust to major changes in their learning styles. After some intense planning and rearranging, our fun in-person classes shifted to online-only format and we successfully launched our first series of online STEAM classes. Our dedicated teachers poured their creativity and effort into helping our students to continue staying engaged in hands-on learning experiences. Students collaborated in small groups while competing in various design challenges, practiced their Growth Mindset, shared their ideas with one another, and reflected on their learning.
This summer was our chance to innovate as we’ve never done before and recreate our hands-on high touch personalized learning—online. We are happy to say that it worked beyond our expectations!
Our programs made sure that students were learning how to communicate effectively with their peers while working remotely with each other—skills that are very valuable today and will also be in the future. Their desire to be innovative and think outside the box shone through in each iSchool program, including Digital Art, Innovation Labs and Game Design. This year, they also explored their feelings and emotions by literally building a self-controllercoaster and challenged their creative thinking through character design and animation.
Even though we didn’t have in-person summer camps this year, our teachers made sure that our students enjoyed their learning experiences and still learn and grow from them. One way they worked towards that was through embracing failure by calling their mistakes “How Fascinating!” moments. Every time they missed a goal, made a mistake, or were challenged by an activity, they exclaimed “How fascinating!”. This allowed our students to see the failure as an opportunity to learn something from what they did not achieve so that they could improve or get new ideas. They also realized on their own that the more ‘Fascinating Moments’ they had, the better their results were!
Students explored engineering hands-on by using engineering design processes in the different Innovation Lab challenges. Along with learning how to design a mobile app and code, they explored the ups and downs of physics, engineering and design – built bridges out of paper and household materials, tested weight loads, and embraced failure through their ‘How Fascinating!’ moments.
Digital Art class allowed our students to bring their imaginations to life by thinking up interesting and fun characters that they could create on the computer, through character animation. They also learned to ways to tell their own stories through comics, including how to design the different characters and environments, and how to create a storyline for them. Students were also able to learn the basics of graphic design, from the computer software to putting images together to create fun and unique images.
Game Design Camp
Game Design Camp allowed the students to discover the work, time, and creative energy that goes into their favorite games. They got to learn the software and terms used by the professionals, they created plots and storylines, and worked in teams to come up with their own little games. Each of these courses allowed our students to explore their creativity, meet challenges and find solutions to overcoming them, and build their teamworking skills.
At the end of the camp, the students had their final presentations for their friends and family. Dive into Game Design!
Not only did the students master new skills and tools, but they also made friends, created games, exercised and practiced their growth mindset, and shared their ideas with each other and the wider community and their families – all in one short week! Listen to our parents’ share their perspectives about the camp.
Social Justice and the Golden Rule
With the pandemic sweeping the globe, we were all huddled at home, hoping for the best and a quick return to our old normal. Unfortunately, our time at home meant that we would all be exposed to some challenges that are still present within our society. This included painful events that would force us to have uncomfortable but important discussions about race and social justice, which means treating others fairly, regardless of our differences, in order for all of us to live well and happily, together. These events and the need for these discussions made us focus on how we could support parents and caretakers prepare for the questions their students might have. This led us to provide a free resource created by Teaching Tolerance, a group dedicated to promoting a rich and diverse society. The free ebook, Beyond the Golden Rule, was a guide for parents to help them answer their children’s questions and know how to encourage their children to recognize and stand against prejudice for what is right, which would make them good citizens of the world.
Family Movie Night
We began the new semester online with an iSchool Family Movie Night. We wanted to give our students’ families, both new and old, an opportunity to come together as a community in a time of uncertainty and confusion. Our feature film was Disney’s Inside Out, because we wanted to encourage our students to explore their emotions at a time when fear and anxiety were, and still are, very common. We even posted a fun and simple movie night snack recipe on our Instagram page, which we knew a lot of our students would love. We enjoyed spending time with those who were able to join us. We are also planning a few more iSchool Family Movie Nights, so we hope to see more families there!
Launch of the Professional Development Program for Teachers
The shift to online learning has not been a challenge only for students. We realized that a lot of teachers would be struggling even more to connect with their students, while meeting their mental, emotional and social needs. With this in mind, we decided to create a course for education professionals, training them in how to maximize their students’ success in online classes. Whether the classes were online or blended, our virtual on-day course was designed to support teachers in engaging their students and providing them with relevant hand-on learning for better coping with current events. The course included taking the attendees through some of the activities that our students have tried during the year, including “building time” and self-reflection at the end of the activities.