Despite COVID-19 closure, Lab School cultivates community and learning remotely

Although the Shirley G. Moore Lab School closed in March due to COVID-19, teachers continued to offer learning and community building experiences for children, families, and student teachers.

After discovering the need to transition to a remote approach, each Lab School teacher assessed their families’ needs to create a schedule that worked for their classroom. At the same time, Lab School teachers, who are also instructors in the Institute of Child Development’s early childhood education program, turned virtual curriculum needs into student teacher assignments. 

To maintain a strong connection with preschool students, Lab School teachers met with large and small groups of children via Zoom weekly and sent home videos of themselves reading stories and other learning activities. They also sent regular emails with suggested activities that could be completed at home, so children could continue to build on what they learned earlier in the school year. Some teachers also mailed letters, met with each child individually via Zoom, or stopped by each child’s home to say hello while maintaining safety through physical distancing. 

“At our first staff meeting after we moved to remote learning we all agreed that the focus of our distance learning with the preschoolers was going to center around what we know is most developmentally important at this age—their social and emotional health and growth,” said Marie Lister, MEd, a teaching specialist at the Lab School and instructor in ICD’s early childhood education program. “With that in mind, all of the activities, resources, and conversations we had with children were geared toward the goal of maintaining our relationships with them and their relationships with one another. We wanted the curriculum that we offered to provide a sense of consistency and familiarity during a time that felt really uncertain for all of us.” 

According to Lister, the crisis also allowed the Lab School team to provide organic learning experiences for teacher candidates. “We were experiencing and problem solving around all of this in real-time with them, and while it certainly wasn’t the way any of us wanted to end our time together, it did create some empowering opportunities for our teacher candidates to have their voices and ideas heard and implemented,” Lister said. “None of us had taught through a global pandemic before—we were all starting from page one trying to figure out the best way to care for our school community.”

In addition to student activities, the Lab School also hosted three remote parent nights where teachers and staff checked in with families and broke up into small groups to help them address challenges they were facing at home. According to an anonymous end-of-the-year survey, parents overwhelmingly provided positive feedback about their experience, with one parent noting, “We are deeply thankful for the tremendous effort and thought that the Lab School has put into distance learning! The high level of professionalism, engagement and caring on the part of the school staff and teachers in these activities provided our family with a much needed island of stability and grounding during this unsettled time.”