Local teachers find innovative ways to help virtual learners interact with classmates

Posted at 7:56 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 20:56:10-04

From young children to the elderly, social interaction is very important, not just for mental health but for our overall well-being. The need for human contact is especially crucial in a child’s development.

“It is more about the social and emotional and showing and touching and just experiencing things, and this is certainly a part of that. Definitely, the way we learn is through our interaction with other people,” said Dr. Becky Odajima, the Director of Innovation and Learning and Midway Virtual School Principal.

“One of the elementary student’s parent's concerns was their social time. When are they going to have time to interact with their classmates? So I started hosting what I call a lunch bunch every Friday from 12 to 12:30, and it's an optional time where students can login to a live Google Meet and eat their lunch with their classmates just like they would if they were in our cafeteria here at school,” said Kailyn Conrad, a virtual 2nd grade teacher at Spring Valley Elementary.

During lunch bunch, students can participate in show-and-tell, interact with their fellow classmates, and participate in a weekly activity like going on a virtual field trip.

“I got one email that said that their weekly schedule was based around lunch bunch time, and their grocery list was based on what that student was going to be eating at lunch bunch on Friday,” said Conrad.

Conrad says lunch bunch has made her students more interactive and willing to learn during the work week.

“They might comment on something during an instructional live meet like, "Oh yeah, I remember you had a dog named Bolt," or whatever we were talking about that day. They are making those personal connections with each other and so it just makes it feel like a real classroom environment,” said Conrad.

“Teachers are great people and at heart, and they are gonna do what they think is gonna meet the needs of kids, so to give them the free range to sort of do that has been important to, I think,” said Dr. Odajima.