by Jenn Drake, Early Elementary Classroom Teacher
Change has been on my mind so much lately, as almost everything is looking different around me. One thing that I can’t let go of, the thing that means the most to me about being at school, is the social nature of the whole enterprise. Having kids connect to each other and to us is an extremely important part of an education. For many, it’s why they invest in early childhood education! So, when I thought about the changes we would need to put in place this year to keep our community healthy, I worried about how we would keep the social connections alive.
And wow, did I worry unnecessarily! It turns out that you can’t take the social nature out of children – six feet or no six feet! They don’t even need to see a whole face to make a connection and establish “best friend” status. So, masks on, they recognize each other. They are learning each other’s names. They are sharing their interests. In fact, their masks have sparked so much conversation! “I like your mask!” “I like pandas too!” “I have the same mask at home!”
We have set up our Early Elementary classrooms to allow for shared experiences with toys, games, crafts, and puzzles, but without the sharing of germs. To do this, we placed several tables together, but with seats six feet apart. We put out the same toys – let’s say Legos – so that each child has space and their own toys to play with. This allows them to build “together” and have conversations about what they are making. It’s amazing to see how much they connect with each other during Exploration (UCDS’s independent and collaborative projects)! They talk, they share, they show what they made.
So this is another lesson learned for me this year. You can socially distance and wear masks and stay stationary for a while, and still connect at school. It turns out COVID-19 can’t beat our social nature!