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Using SNHS resources to keep students engaged, especially in the Virtual Classroom

By Wendy Li

As schools across the country try to turn their attention towards reopening, some will continue distance learning into the fall as a way to keep students, educators and their families safe. Keeping students engaged while they cannot be in physical classrooms is no easy task, but teachers like Kehkashan Khan have found SNHS resources to be particularly helpful and have even shared them with colleagues. In the video above, she demonstrates how she adapted her in-class lessons for the virtual classroom by posting Science News articles and corresponding worksheets online. Kehkashan has taught in Chicago for 12 years, 10 of which have been at CCA Academy. She teaches a number of science courses, including Integrated Science, Health and Nutrition as well as Urban Agriculture. Prior to moving to Chicago, she also taught internationally for over a decade. We shared her insights and tips for fellow educators below.

How long have you been using Science News in High Schools resources in your classroom?

This is the first year I am using SNHS materials in the classroom since I received the free program. Earlier, I used Science News magazine, which I received from participating in other Society programs.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your students and classroom? What challenges have you faced, successes have you achieved, and/or funny anecdotes do you have to share?

The pandemic caused a major disruption to the learning of all students. It took a while for the administrators at our school to decide on a uniform format to deliver instruction and then getting students to participate was another challenge. Spring break was on schedule, so just when we were getting started, we had to take a break for a week. Now we have a firm plan for teaching and learning.

I use Google classroom and have a scheduled virtual class that doesn’t clash with other classes so students get to see each of their teachers every day. Other teachers visit my class and provide support to students that need help. The first day we were in class, my students were so upset that they did not want to listen to any instructions or follow directions. The seniors wanted to know when they would have graduation and prom. Unfortunately, I had no answers but told them I would ask the Principal and get back to them. The non-instructional staff at school were amused with my daily report and asked to be included in further reports because they miss the hustle and bustle of a regular working day.

Do you have tips for other teachers who are also navigating the virtual teaching and learning world?

I have set a few guidelines for myself and that is what I would like to share with my counterparts. Students are extremely stressed out, so do not give them more information on COVID-19 on the first day you meet them. I included basics of the immune system by adding an interesting video of the spread of germs and created a review sheet to go with it. Current data and news about COVID-19 is scary to most people and more so to students that are confined to their houses with not much to look forward to. I hope to provide in-depth information and opportunities for research after I create a level of curiosity in them using SNHS resources.

The other teachers and I took time to talk to students and ask them how they were coping. We also informed them about the computers our school and the Chicago public school system are offering students if they do not have access to technology. Though the pace is slow, I know students are happy to see familiar faces. Now I receive notifications in the middle of the night when students complete their assignments and submit them to me.

Wendy Li