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Building Community During COVID-19

The return of many teachers and students to the Ravenscroft campus has involved new practices and protocols designed to keep everyone in our school community safe and healthy as they dig in to a new year. While some COVID-19 mitigation efforts — from eating lunch in classrooms, wearing face coverings and physical distancing to having some classmates and even teachers joining lessons from home — have taken getting used to, our ever-resilient Ravens are finding ways to have fun, feel connected and enjoy their time together. 

We asked members of our faculty and staff what they’ve been doing to foster interpersonal connection and build community in their classrooms, advisories and even during screening checks at carpool. Here’s what they had to say.

PreK teacher Betsy Barnette: This year, PreK and K have made a commitment to the morning meeting. Research shows that it’s important for children to connect with each other and their teacher and this is a great way. We have a morning meeting every morning that includes our virtual learners, and sometimes they join us for lunch.

In my classroom, the students know that if they stand on the “rabbit” on the rug that their friends at home can see them with the OWL camera! I am constantly saying “Go stand on the rabbit and talk to your friends at home!” They love it — both the in-school learner and the at-home learner.

We also have a different greeting each week because we cannot shake hands or high-five. This week we’ve done the “bow-wow” greeting, which involves a bow to your friends, then holding up your fingers in W’s beside your open mouth (or mask!) to make the word “wow.” The children think it’s hilarious.

First-grade teacher Avera Acai: One way I have put the personal touch into my first-grade classroom is by providing morning choice bins (rather than shared items from centers), such as Legos, Play-doh or magnetic tiles. I provided Plus Plus blocks to my students and, from a distance, they enjoy creating fun designs! This is a picture of Palmer Cimino (left) and Cannon James (right) who are pictured with their designs!

First-grade assistant Erin Hunter: One fun thing we have been doing is to include our virtual learners in the partner games that we play for math. I pair up an in-class student with a virtual student to play. Here is a picture of two students playing a math game called Top It. 

Admissions assistant Alicia Petty: The Admissions Team is loving the opportunity to spend time with our students in the classrooms. We are connecting by covering recess, lunch, bathroom breaks and proctoring for teachers. In this photo, I’m spending lunch with Mrs. Murphy’s first-grade class. It’s been a refreshing change in our daily routine at The Welcome Center. 

Fifth-grade teacher Crystal Keefe: I put a mirror in my classroom surrounded with positive mantras about what you can see “behind the mask” so my students can look into it when they need a little positivity.

Middle School science and engineering teacher Michelle Nunalee: In seventh-grade science, once every eight-day cycle we hold class outside in our campus forest for Forest School. In our first few lessons, we have been practicing seeing the world with the eye of a scientist. We used Private Eye hand lenses to examine natural objects up close, and we looked for shapes and patterns in the forest as a way to discover the relationship between form and function. For on-campus students, time in the forest is a good opportunity for fresh air and a mask break when we are distanced while completing an activity. Virtual students are able to participate, too, by exploring the natural areas in their own backyard! 

Eighth-grade advisor Garrett Cummings: We are really enjoying each others’ company in advisory and have bonded over conversations that include but are not limited to athletics, music (Sasha Olander ’25 and I have both released original music in the past year!), Dunkin Donuts vs. Starbucks, pop culture, camping, inside jokes, current stresses and hardships, and space science. Virtual advisees join in and share their “Weekend Adventures” on Monday and reflect with “Roses and Thorns” on Fridays. We have a flip-chart counter in my classroom that counts up the successful school days completed at Ravenscroft this year without a “shutdown,” as a cheeky way to foster protocol buy-in — because they love hitting number milestones! This week, with leadership team approval, we rolled out “socially distanced bocce” as a safe game to play at recess.

Eighth-grade advisor Christina Frazier: Every morning one of my advisees, Sarah Enochs ’25, draws a new cartoon on the whiteboard at the back of the room that we’ve dedicated solely for her art. She has a running list for requests! So far we've featured Thomas the Tank Engine, the Smurfs, Sophia the First, Bubble Guppies, etc.  She takes a photo of each drawing so we can remember her art.

Upper School math teacher and senior dean Kat Belk: For those of us who teach in the Upper School, carpool has not historically been part of our jobs. However, with the need to check Magnus Health apps of students when first arriving on campus, many of us have been up bright and early at the ready to greet students and check apps on the sidewalks of campus. At the start of the year, we were challenged with working out the kinks of traffic flow and glitches in the app. Since then, it has felt like a well-oiled machine, thanks to the great cooperation from our students and families, and we have learned to have fun with it. You might catch us on “Fanny-Pack Friday” or with our colorful boas, pom-poms or even a foam finger while listening to a wide range of music on Mrs. Lamond’s outdoor speaker. It has been an unexpected bonus to our day to greet the students with smiles and “Good mornings!” before the first bell even rings!