Less paper, no field trips, but more time outdoors
Our student correspondents check in to tell us how COVID-19 has changed their classroom experience
CBC is following these Ottawa students over the next few months as they return to school for in-class learning during COVID-19.
There are fewer germ-spreading paper handouts and more outdoor classes. "Chalk and talk" lessons — or at least the modern-day whiteboard equivalent — are taking over.
It's a year of massive change for kids who headed back to school for in-class learning this fall. Here's what CBC Ottawa's student correspondents had to say about some of those adjustments, and how they're adapting.
(Student correspondent Vanessa Brohman is off this week, but will return.)
Akwa Udoeyop, 10
A Grade 5 student at Elmdale Public School, Akwa Udoeyop has definitely noticed a few changes.
"The teachers have been using microphones to speak louder so we can actually hear them under the mask," he said. "She mostly stands in the front to keep social distance."
There are no textbooks and more in-class videos this year, he said.
The very layout of the classroom has changed, too.
"Our seats? One metre apart because of COVID," said Udoeyop. "We can't sit at anybody else's desk because we've got to physically distance and try to be safe."
It's not total isolation — teachers are still there to help when needed.
"We can get one-on-one help, but we have to raise our hands and the teacher will come to us," he said.
Gym classes are held outside, and while Udoeyop loves the open space, "I dislike the bugs because they get in your eyes and ears."
COVID-19 means no field trips or other extras, but even so, Ukoeyop is OK with that. "I actually kind of like school right now, and I also love decimals."
Darya Heynen, 11
Darya Heynen, a Grade 7 student at École secondaire publique De La Salle in Lowertown, no longer has to take tests home to be signed by her parents.
"Our teachers are just informing our parents that we've done this test," Heynen said. "I guess at the end of the year they might see it."
The idea is to limit the possible transfer of germs from school to home, and back again.
To show their work in class, students use whiteboards. "Instead of writing on paper so that our teacher has to lean over us to read what we're writing, we have a big board, so it's easier and we can keep our distance more," Heynen explained.
Somewhat surprisingly, Heynen said she and her classmates still engage in group projects. "I would have assumed it would have been hard, but I don't find it much different," she said. "Group projects are usually really fun."
What's not fun? Cancelled class outings. "Field trips are something you really look forward to," said Heynen. "It's more like open learning ... where you have a little more freedom, instead of sit down at your desk and learn, learn, learn, learn, learn. So it's disappointing."
Heynen has mixed feelings about outdoor learning. "Sometimes we go outside … and it's really interactive, like doing math outside, but with chalk on the ground," she said. "I like outdoor classes if the weather's nice and if it's not pouring rain.
Bottom line: "I'm really thankful that I can go to school … because it's really different than staring at a screen for hours," said Heynen.
Demeter Riedmueller, 13
Like Udoeyop and Heynen, Demeter Riedmueller has noticed fewer handouts. "You're not all touching the same thing and then possibly spreading the coronavirus," said the Grade 9 Lisgar Collegiate student.
But at her school, group work seems to have gone the way of karaoke and trick-or-treating. "We haven't done any yet, and I don't think we will," she said.
Moving around the classroom is discouraged. "Instead of us going up to talk to the teacher, handing in an assignment or asking a question, they normally come to us just so that there's not a large crowd of people who are …walking around the classroom and not social distancing."
Focusing on just one high school subject per day — for Riedmueller, currently art or gym —can also be a challenge. "Four hours of art is really fun. But … four hours of gym is very tiring.... That is definitely one of the things that I do not really like about this new system."
In a typical year, Grade 9 art students would go on field trips to the National Gallery of Canada and the Ottawa School of Art. Not in 2020. Still, she agrees it's better than staring at a computer screen.
"Online school is pretty boring, in my opinion. And then when I'm done, I don't really have anything else to do," said Riedmueller. "It kind of still feels like I'm being very unproductive, even though I'm doing two classes."