How Teachers are Keeping Students Engaged Through the Screen

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Photo Courtesy of Mrs. Burroughs

Art teacher Cathryn Burroughs shows her crowded home setup that is used for class Google Meets. With many students and activities planned for them, some educators must balance their workload while overseeing their students from home.

Jacob Fletcher, Staff Reporter

Teaching is resource-intensive; it takes time, equipment, and for students and teachers alike, patience. Recently, both teaching and learning have been significantly changed due to online-learning which limits the ways teachers can teach their students. Online, much of Sage Creek’s schooling equipment is rendered useless, leaving educators the responsibility of discovering new ways to teach and engage their students. 

Sage Creek, being a newer school with a large student body, has advanced equipment. Curriculum planners take advantage of this with hands-on classes that utilize supplies like instruments, digital cameras, and professional-grade computers. For physical education, the high school is home to a weight room, track, large field, and more. Danny Kung, a P.E. teacher, and track coach highlighted how coaches have long-used these commodities to keep students in shape but now must take a remote approach. 

Tara Andersson, a chemistry teacher at Sage Creek, shows her Google Meet lab setup from the first experiment of the year. Teachers have been using their cameras to display lab results and experiments visually, as if it were firsthand. (Photo Courtesy of Tara Andersson)

“What makes it really hard is the fact we are activity-based and many of our standards include working with others,” Kung said. “We use run apps to have them track their cardiovascular activity…have them do different workout videos…to get them active. Unfortunately, this doesn’t replace the team sports, weight room, and individual sports we do on a daily basis when we are in session… In general, we have had to try to think way out of the box to try to keep our students active. Some are doing OK, but I know for many they are struggling.” 

While the adaptations of P.E. focus primarily on physical activity, most of high school is about training the mind. Classes such as science and math, also use provided equipment to demonstrate complicated ideas. Science classes, like Tara Andersson’s chemistry class, often conduct experiments to get these points across. She explains her intent to teach her students as well as possible, despite limitations. 

“My chemistry class is a very hands-on class when we are in-person instruction,” Andersson said. “So, now that we are virtual I am really trying my best to make it the same experience you would have had in class at home too…I have found that a lot of the labs I would have had students complete in class are now turning into me completing them as demonstrations live during our class meets…I am trying every day to bring the same experiences to my chemistry students that they would have had in-person, virtually.”

Another science teacher, Don Pham, expresses the difficulty and how he has adapted his classes for students.

Art teachers Cathryn Burroughs and Magan Herrick complete setting up bags of necessary supplies for their pottery students at the beginning of the school year. Due to a widespread lack of home materials, teachers may send the essentials home to students. (Photo Courtesy of Cathryn Burroughs)

“Students don’t have the necessary resources and equipment to conduct their experiments at home,” Pham said. “One way we’re adapting our curriculum is by providing virtual simulations for the students to play around with…we might ask the students to conduct low-cost home experiments that can be accessible for all students…So far, these adaptations have been adequate in helping students learn the material but they are, by no means, a substitute to hands-on experiment that we conduct in class.”

Mandatory classes have been subject to many conversations because of their importance and sizable rosters, but electives can be overlooked. Due to quarantine boredom, creative outlets and classes of special interest are more important to students than ever. One art class, extra dependent on limited equipment, is 3D Art, also known as pottery. Cathryn Burroughs teaches this class and shares her solutions to keep students creative. 

“At the start of the school year, I assembled art/clay supply packs for each student,” Burroughs said. “After the students received their supplies, they were ready to go! Teaching 3DD online has had its challenges as well as its perks…art is incredibly therapeutic, and I am so grateful to offer projects that actually help students through this difficult time. We have been keeping a visual journal, which is also an excellent way to express feelings, and explore this strange time through their creativity! Also, I am able to really spend one-on-one time with each student, offering them thoughtful feedback and support. We have been doing some really interesting projects in 3D, and the student work is just amazing!”