Strange days – new ways
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 5, 10 July 2020, page no.14
Ipswich SHS – keeping it in balance
At Ipswich State High, our Wellbeing@ISH mantra is Keeping it in Balance. Learning to adapt to COVID-19 stay at home restrictions and our Term 2 remote learning journey, many staff were feeling “stuck behind a screen” and missing that social connection we have with our students. Knowing that staying connected and being active were ways to “keep it in balance” during this situation, the Wellbeing@ISH team launched the 25 Million in May steps tournament as a way to “keep it social” and to “keep moving”.
94 staff across the school stepped it up from the 1 May launch. The buzz of energy around the school (and competitiveness!) has fuelled socially-distanced healthy connections and millions of steps. Participants have stepped their way across the country in our #virtualroadtrip challenges and some have stepped their way beyond the half a million step count.
Ballandean State School – staying in touch
After the initial “Oh no, how are we going to manage and what will we do?”, we stopped and had a rethink. While we couldn’t change the situation, we could use it as an opportunity to explore new ways of working, reflect on what needed improving and even create new learning spaces.
Communication was a key priority for us, to maintain the connection to our community. Facebook live became a regular addition to our week. A general update and check-in on Tuesdays, story time with different staff on Wednesdays and a surprise on Fridays. In addition, a weekly email to parents to check-in, update them on the latest DoE news and share our weekly happenings was well received.
Reading with students over the phone, or via Skype or Whats App, enabled us to chat to students and gauge how they were coping with their learning at home, as well as hear them read. Our virtual ANZAC Day service, which was organised by our year six leadership group from their separate places, was viewed online by more than 2,000 people!
When students returned, re-connecting, sharing of experiences and identifying feelings associated with learning at home and returning to school was important. This was done through several reflective art activities across the first week.
Students were asked to represent their favourite part of being at home through a nature collage, make chalk drawings identifying aspects they missed, and produce pencil drawings with a description showing the feelings they associated with their learning at home experience. Discussions which occurred throughout these activities enabled all of us to share our experiences and thoughts in a collaborative and supportive way.
Harristown SHS – remaining engaged
Harristown State High School worked in a range of ways to ensure the students and families of our school community were able to remain engaged during the Term 2 lockdown. This involved tireless work from all school staff to produce hard copy learning packs for all students which were then hand delivered across Toowoomba. Meanwhile we continued to develop a variety of methods to engage with the community in an online capacity.
Despite being unable to visit local primary schools, we were determined not to completely miss our annual engagement of school ambassadors with our future students. Instead, student ambassadors provided short video responses to questions about their high school experience. These responses were then collated into a weekly video that was shared with primary schools.
As a replacement for our delayed Open Afternoon, a team of staff developed a virtual tour to show potential students some of the wonderful programs, resources and facilities available at our school. The response to this video was incredible – with more than 120,00 views and more than 21,000 people reached.
The arts faculty developed a series of posts called “ARTS@8”. These posts allowed students and families to:
- celebrate dance week from home
- participate in an online exhibition of visual art works
- view a retrospective of our drama productions.
In HPE, staff set a lofty goal of filming and producing a series of videos – dubbed COVIDeos – to keep our community engaged in healthy and active lifestyles.
Graceville SS – the Nutbush
The idea of the Nutbush was born as an opportunity to help highlight the importance of prioritising social, emotional and physical wellbeing during the remote learning period. As a staff, we committed to building the daily practice of the Nutbush dance in to lessons. By doing this, we knew that every day our students would be away from their computers or textbooks, up and moving and hopefully having some fun dancing with their families. We encouraged students and their families to post images and videos of themselves practicing the Nutbush dance to their class and on our whole school social media platforms.
As the images started rolling in, we could see the fun our students and families were having together. Not to be left out, our staff rose to the challenge by posting their own dance practice!
We contacted 97.3FM, in the hope they would help us connect through music by playing "Nutbush City Limits" on the radio. What we did not expect was the groundswell of support from the wider community that came after 97.3FM agreed to help us. As our staff and families tuned in to the radio each day, they were amazed at how many other schools and businesses wanted to take part in the Nutbush dance with us. Around 130 schools and many more individual students, families and businesses officially took part in the dance. Even the Minister for Education joined in!
We started receiving phone calls and emails from members of the wider community thanking us for lifting their spirits and giving them something to look forward to. We chose to share these stories with our staff and students and we all began to feel we were part of something bigger than just ourselves.
Foxwell State Secondary College – Connection Day
As a foundation school with only year seven students, it was definitely an interesting time for us.
We knew that our first day back together was not just another day at school for our students and teachers, and it wasn’t acceptable to treat it like it was.
Our school community needed to reconnect and to rebuild. We needed to listen to our students and support them in sharing their stories and their voices. We needed to give them the time and space to begin their “new normal”. As a welcome back gesture, on the Friday before school returned, each student received a personalised card in their letterbox created from year seven student artworks signed by each of their teachers.
Our Connection Day started with a joyful reunion between our students and staff, starting with a pancake breakfast provided by our staff chef. Together, we connected as a community and engaged in purposeful and meaningful activities based around our SPIRIT values. The program provided authentic opportunities for our staff and students to engage with Marc Brackett’s Moodmeter and RULER approach.
The palpable energy during our device-free day was beyond any reasonable explanation. Our students shared picnic lunches, danced, played guitars with their peers, painted, played basketball, talked openly and even flew kites, all as the sound of loud music echoed around our buildings. This is what joy looks like. This is human connection. This is why I’m proud to be an educator. This is what it’s all about!
Toowoomba State High School – I’m part of the urban landscape
After completing five weeks of online learning studying the drawing and painting unit “I am part of the Urban Landscape”, our year nine visual art students were given the opportunity to get out of the confines of the classroom and in to the autumn fresh air to paint the school's mural.
Teacher Rebecca Stanley said: “I wanted to give the students a first hand, real world experience; I knew it was time to update the mural and the year nine cohort were the perfect class to take it on; particularly after the confines of at-home learning”.
This project gave students a sense of ownership over a space they share with others in the school while providing a COVID-safe work environment. Students were assigned bushes and aprons and worked outside in the fresh air. It was the first time the students were able to tackle a project of this size.
“It was so exciting to find out we were going to be doing the mural, it is sort of a legacy to year nine art 2020. I hope that after I graduate I can come back and see it still standing”. Dakota Ehrlich
“It was an amazing experience to be part of history, the mural will serve as reminder of some of the positives that came out of ISO.” Amber Bonnell
“I feel proud that I was in the class that made the mural. Everyone says it looks like a professional street artist did it.” Jesyka Bolch
“Normally seniors get to do this sort of thing, so it was great we got a chance to make some changes to our school environment. It turned out so beautiful.” Ezri Strong