How The Lab School is “OutLabbing Itself” During Distance Learning
Within days, Lab embraced the challenge of designing and creating distance learning for our nearly 400 students grades 1-12.
You never know what you are actually ready for — and capable of — until an unthinkable challenge arrives, uninvited. One day we were all at school, revolving about in the spheres of our worlds, the next we were not. The spread of the coronavirus has forced us all to test our mettle. The Lab School, as it turns out, was more than ready to take on the challenge of distance learning, and, in some ways, Lab has “outLabbed” itself.
“We knew we had the technology and know-how to create distance learning plans for our students, but we underestimated the talent of our teachers, clinicians, and staff and their ability to create a plan in a mere two weeks. We discovered that the 21st century communication technology can be adapted to deliver Lab’s signature teaching methodology; Lab’s treasure chest of best practices continues to expand,” says Head of School Katherine Schantz. “Our students are participating in video classrooms, taking on independent projects, and staying connected during virtual faculty office hours. We are able to continue the small-group reading, writing, and math lessons so critical for maintaining and growing skills. Our content teachers are exploring so many more sources for sharing information and generating curiosity. Our related service providers have found secure platforms to continue the delivery of speech and language, occupational therapy, and psychological services — those much needed one-to-one therapies during these times. And as digital natives, our students have shown us that not only is technology easier than we thought, but that screen time is as much about social connection as it is about learning content.”
Hard to visualize some of the online learning happening under so many Lab School community roofs? In Junior High Science, students are researching a scientist who helped develop the cell theory and then writing and filming short breaking news TV reports on that scientist and his or her work to be shared in class. In Intermediate’s Authors and Illustrators, students are creating a "book of spells and enchantment" around words they hold dear and would not want to be left out of the dictionary. In Elementary, students learned from Bol Aweng, who fled his country of Southern Sudan in 1987, along with 35,000 other Lost Boys. He shared his story live and showed them the paintings he creates to tell the story of the Lost Boys. In High School Studio Art, students are creating a short graphic novel, comic book, or scrap book reflecting on their experiences during this unique time in our history and in English 12, students are participating in virtual discussions on Frankenstein and how this text illustrates the human condition. These are just a few examples …
It seems that the very expertise of our faculty and staff of working with students with learning differences, and their deep understanding of each individual student and his or her learning profile, is what has fueled their ability to made the leap to distance learning so seamless.
And as essential as academics, faculty and staff also understand the importance of helping our students — and families — adjust to this new routine and way of living, and meeting them where they are emotionally at any given time. Offering virtual office hours or “social gatherings” in addition to class time, creating normalcy and routine, and encouraging connection and a sense of fun are all a part of that effort.
“We have converted the challenge of beginning a ‘new school’ in the middle of an academic year to an opportunity to enhance a Lab education. We are learning more every day, and every day a new way to teach a skill or topic is discovered,” says Ms. Schantz. “I hope when this surreal time is over and we are lucky to be back in the world as we know it that we, as a community, will be proud of how we faced these profound challenges … how our mettle stood up to the test. I think we will.”
And for now … we will stay apart, but we will definitely stay connected.