In an “alternate universe,” today (written May 6), would have been the senior’s last day at Heartland Community School. On Sunday, we would be celebrating their graduation with a ceremony in the north gym and parties at their homes. Graduation is one of the many things that has changed for schools across the country since the outbreak of Covid-19. Schools such as Heartland have had to postpone or do a virtual graduation, and cancel track season, spring drama productions, prom, banquets, and more. In talking with Mr. Tim Carr, Heartland’s Secondary Principal, he shared how Heartland is moving forward in a new way this year with some of these activities and what that could mean for the future.
“Even though everything is very different this spring, we have found ways to be creative and try to serve our students in the best way possible,” states Carr. “This has allowed teachers and administrators the creativity to do things in a new way.” One of these items is the High School Awards Night which generally takes place in April. Each of the coaches for the various activities honor the students who have taken part in their activities. Parents and community members are invited to come watch this event in the school theater. Letter winners for the various activities are printed in the program and special recognition is given to students throughout the evening. Local area scholarships for this year’s seniors are also announced at this event. This year, Awards Night went digital. Each of the coaches recorded themselves giving the speech they would have shared that evening. This was compiled and shared on Heartland’s website, Twitter, and Facebook. By clicking the link, interested persons can watch the various videos by the coaches, and, as a bonus, can see a slideshow of photos from each event. “This is something we may consider keeping for future years in some way,” says Carr. The videos and photos will stay on Heartland’s website archive and can be accessed anytime.
Another activity that was done in a virtual setting this year was Heartland’s Academic Signing Event. A few years ago, Heartland began recognizing the seniors who received academic scholarships to the college they will be attending. In the past, this was done by inviting a college representative to be present, as well as the student’s parents. The event is structured in a way similar to an athletic signing. This year, the signing was done via Zoom and put out on Facebook Live on Tuesday evening. Sharing this on Facebook Live allows for others to watch this event. This will also be something that Heartland will consider for the future, at least as a Facebook Live event.
“In a ‘normal’ year, the Heartland 6th graders would have had a day of 7th Grade Orientation. They would have seen the various homerooms, met teachers, and met with the Junior High Senate–a group of Junior High students elected to their positions. The Senate would have taken time to share with the 6th graders about what to expect in Junior High and how to have a positive experience. “Since we were unable to do this traditionally, we brought the Junior High to them.” said Carr. The Junior High teachers, as well as the student senate, invited all 6th graders to join a Zoom to talk about the classes, the homerooms, and what to expect in Junior High.
Graduation is something that may change as well this year. At this point, Heartland has moved the graduation date to August 1st in hopes of having a traditional ceremony in the gym. However, each student was asked to record themselves sharing their future plans and favorite Heartland memory as well as send in a photo with them in their cap and gown. “That way if we have to have a virtual graduation, we have Plan B in place,” explained Carr. Either way, there will still be a senior slideshow, recognition of the valedictorians, and a choir performance. Having to think outside the box with teaching has led to the creation of a virtual choir for graduation. All Henderson/Bradshaw/Heartland alumni have been invited to participate in a virtual choir opportunity. Those who choose to participate will follow instructions from a video put together by Mr. Hall, choir director, and sing their parts. The resulting video will be shared at graduation whether in-person or online.
Teachers have also embraced the technology. While it’s obviously not the same as seeing and teaching their students each day, distance learning/teaching has allowed for additional creativity. Mrs. Janzen, the art teacher, has been sharing online art shows of work submitted by students K-12. She has also designed an online Pictionary tournament to be played by Junior High via Zoom this week. Teachers are using tools such as flip grid which allows for teachers and students to make short videos of what they are doing to share with others. In one turn of events, a student who was not in any FSC classes, completed one of the activities shared by Mrs. Regier, the FCS teacher, and submitted before and after photos of their project.
“We are aware the learning also takes place outside of the classroom on a daily basis,” says Carr. “We have heard from students and parents about the various ways the students are learning and spending their time. While we miss having students and fellow staff in the building, we are doing our best to meet our students where they are and doing what we can to meet their needs, provide enrichment, and continue to foster relationships. This is a time that takes patience and grace by all involved and we at Heartland have chosen to do what we can to make this a positive experience for everyone.”
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