Here our faculty shares 10 examples of the inspiring learning activities they are offering our students from home during this period of remote learning. Grayson’s flexibility, creativity, and dedication to learning have been evident across our faculty and student body, with classroom and community-building activities crafted to reflect our values and strengthen our school culture. We have all been excited to discover new avenues of exploration that will continue once we return to classes in our school building.
Keeping our traditions and spirit alive!
Virtual classrooms provide opportunities to connect with mentors from around the world — and beyond. May the Fourth, officially known as Star Wars Day among fans, is an annual Grayson celebration that was made even more exciting this year, as we were joined by a Star Wars legend and the only actor to appear in all nine of the main Star Wars movies: Anthony Daniels, aka C-3PO! Mr. Daniels spent over an hour with us LIVE ONLINE from London for an all-school assembly and answered all our students’ questions. Hosting expert discussions online and offering family engagement activities like we did on Star Wars Day really strengthens our culture and community, which is the essence of the Grayson experience. I am so proud of the inspiring learning our teachers provide our students every day from home.
—Melissa Bilash, Founder and Executive Director
P.S. Click the photo to see a clip from our call!
why not an alternate reality, then?
I have loved working on our alternate reality game with the Upper School. When it was clear that we were not going to be able to access the incredible resources in our Projects classrooms, I wasn’t quite sure where to head next. And then we started the tremendous process of collaborative and immersive storytelling through world-building, and we ended up with a product that has blurred the lines between reality and fiction, student and teacher, author and player. My favorite was making fake merchandise from the businesses in our (fake) town and sending it to the students. Lots of us showed up on Zoom the next day in our “Refington Horticultural Society” shirts.
—Ally O’Rourke-Barrett, Projects
Engaging tools that enhance collaboration.
One of the important concepts we cover in 4-5 ELA is choosing and using textual references. While reading Young Charles Darwin, we added Padlet as a great platform for students to collect references and discuss books they are reading. Teachers and students can pose questions, categorize information, share images, or topics of interest as we explore the text. Everyone can learn from each other. This has turned out to be a remote learning tool we’ve adopted that the students enjoy and that we plan to use as we transition back to being together in the classroom. By having the students capture their thoughts collaboratively, I find that they are making new connections and building on each other’s ideas to enrich our class discussions.
—Kimm Doherty, Director of the Lower School
Keeping our youngest minds active.
A Professional-looking product generates pride in young writers.
—Alyssa Lucas, Lower School Math and ELA
Supporting student passions keeps our virtual hallways alive.
A few of our students across multiple cohorts are expert “cubers” and early in the year, I worked with these students to organize the creation of a large Rubik’s Cube mosaic that everyone in the school—from Pre-K through grade 12—could create together. This event inspired more students to continue designing new mosaics, and we even built a frame to hold a 10×10 grid of cubes for anyone interested in executing their designs. A “speedcubing” craze soon followed that took over a few homeroom classes, free time, and lunch periods. Our new hallway feature was changing a few times a week! When we transitioned to remote learning, I took the frame home with me thinking that I’d create a few seasonal designs to share with our community while we were apart. It turns out our students had bigger ideas! They keep designing and sending their designs to me to showcase their work on Google Classroom. I have been creating 7 mosaics a week since mid-March. On top of my full schedule, it has become a labor of love that continues to be a joyful part of our (now virtual) hallways, eliciting comments and smiles from staff and students. We even submitted student projects to this spring’s You Can Do The Cube Facebook contest and won more cubes for our school, as well as a shout-out from a world-famous Rubik’s Cube Mosaic artist!
—Traci Brody, Math
Authentic experiences can happen from anywhere.
After we connected with UPenn’s Center for Digital Health through Twitter, a few of their team members joined our Middle School Zoom class to discuss how they use non-traditional data sources to disrupt conventional approaches to patient care. Their ethos of thinking outside the box and working across several departments fits in perfectly with our Data Science unit, and Grayson’s multidisciplinarity as a whole. By connecting with practitioners in the field, my students have been inspired to develop new ideas and opportunities at the intersection of health care and technology.
—Matt Hartman, Computer Science
Fierce engagement takes many forms.
My students are studying influential inventors and innovators from history. We transformed students’ assignments from delivering an oral report to creating a wax museum exhibit of their choice to present during our Grandfriends and VIP Day celebration. The students were fiercely engaged in this assignment. Both their videos and speeches demonstrated an incredibly high caliber of work.
—Kara Weiner, 2-3 Teacher
New ways to communicate and engage with your learning.
I have been so inspired by how my students have flourished in our virtual Mandarin classroom! One student who comes to mind is a 5th grader who always uses Chinese characters in our Zoom chat instead of English or even pinyin, the romanization system that elementary Mandarin learners rely on. For example, instead of writing “Hello” or “Ni hao,” he will always write “你好.” No matter how complex the idea, he will try his best to convey it accurately, with the correct vocabulary and grammar. He always responds when I reply in kind, even when I use characters he has not seen before. Just another example of Grayson students going above and beyond and finding new ways to connect and communicate in this virtual learning environment!
—Xiaomin Ma, Mandarin
Fruitful conversation inspires learning.
Our Upper School students watched several of Don Hertzfeldt’s artistic films, then discussed how Existentialist thought is still prevalent today. Our deep and thoughtful discussions in this class have continued unhindered by remote learning, and I suspect that as we learn from home, the philosophical discussions that take place in the classroom extend to the family room as well. I continue to be inspired by my students as I inspire their curiosity, thinking, and learning.
—Jake Noonan, Syntopicon
you can check out our YouTube Channel Playlists to see Coach Fuss and her Mystery Gym Classes for our youngest students to take a PE break whenever they need it, or to listen to Storytime read aloud by our Ersatz Librarian, Jill Williford Wurman. On our channel, you can also see some of what we offer in flexible, pre-recorded sessions so that our families have optional extra content available as needed: Theatre Thursdays from Ms. Lyon, weekly Projects Challenges as well as videos on Women’s History and our faculty reading their favorite poems for National Poetry Month. Here is one of Mary Lyon’s inspiring learning challenges to the 2-3 class below.