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Friday September 30th

Here’s how local schools are adjusting arts education for remote learning

<p>An Orange County ceramics teacher had the foresight to send home small amounts of clay with individual students before schools were closed.&nbsp; She had the students create a two dimensional Zentangle, then create a 3D version.&nbsp;&nbsp;Photo courtesy of Brenda Whiteman.</p>
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An Orange County ceramics teacher had the foresight to send home small amounts of clay with individual students before schools were closed.  She had the students create a two dimensional Zentangle, then create a 3D version.  Photo courtesy of Brenda Whiteman.

When local arts educators were faced with teaching students without internet access, supplies or other items normally found in a classroom, they got creative. 

Hailey Loftis, a visual arts teacher at Orange High School in Hillsborough, has had to adjust her curriculum and teaching style in order to provide students with their education.

“When I'm in the classroom, for example if we're learning a new drawing technique, that's an environment where I can watch students and correct them,” Loftis said. “In this environment, I'm not able to do that. I have to think of ways of doing art that are not as technical.”

This has led her to assigning things like a time capsule project, in which students respond to 10 different prompts, and asking students to draw representations of objects in their homes.

Loftis has also uploaded instructional videos to Google Classroom so that her students can continue to learn from her.

However, some students may be unable to watch these videos due to a lack of internet access, cell service or devices. Local schools are working to provide these students with the ability to access online learning tools.

Will Atherton, chairperson of the Orange County Board of Education, said the board is looking into purchasing hotspots for students who have cell service but don’t have Wi-Fi, as well as distributing computers to students in kindergarten, first and second grade. Students in third grade and higher have already been given computers to use at home. 

Brenda Whiteman, arts coordinator for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said the CHCCS has approved the purchase of MiFi devices to provide students without Wi-Fi at home with internet access. 

The board is also working on a plan to distribute computers to students in second through fifth grade. Middle and high school students have already been given devices to use at home. Kindergartners and first graders will be given packets of work, which parents will be able to pick up at school sites.

In the meantime, however, Atherton said teachers have been calling to check in with students and give assignments. He has heard some of these calls himself, as his daughter has talked with her chorus teacher several times during the remote learning period.

“She assigns material for her to sing and work on,” Atherton said. “When she calls, they go through it. So, it's basically a one-on-one lesson as they talk through it.”

What even a one-on-one lesson can’t replace, however, are the performances that students have been working toward for an entire quarter or semester. Whiteman said CHCCS teachers have been working on ways for students to continue performing in their homes.

“We have one teacher that's been recording soundtracks for students to sing along with and submit a recording of themselves,” Whiteman said. “We've had several chorus teachers discussing virtual choirs. I have a theater teacher who set up live video conferences so students can continue to work on scenes in groups. There's a wide variety of things happening.”

Both Whiteman and Atherton have been impressed by the creativity faculty members like Loftis have shown in designing lesson plans for the new normal that COVID-19 has presented.

“When you're in a normal setting, you may not get discussions around new ideas, new thoughts, with limited resources,” Atherton said. “If you're home and you have to figure out how to make use of the resources you have, you're going to think of how to do things differently. There's so much unique creativity going on. It's heartwarming to see that.”

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