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Distance Learning - An Adventure
Middle School students doing Zoom class while holding a dog; The Branch School; Private School in Houston

Can you imagine a class morning meeting with 4 cats, 1 bird, 1 dog, and 1 mouse?   It happened recently at The Branch School as fourth grade held their weekly show and tell - online.  Sure, distance learning comes with a host of challenges, but this adventure has a silver lining.  One of them is meeting your pets!


Students participating in Zoom library class during distance learning; The Branch School; Private School in Houston

At The Branch School, our daily distance learning adventure usually starts with a morning meeting when everyone gets to share and then review the events for the day.  Online resources are used extensively.  A third grade teacher shared:

I meet with my whole class every morning through Zoom. We have our regular morning meeting, including jokes on Thursday morning. The children and I find this continuity of routine normalizing and soothing. After our morning meeting, I run down the schedule for the day with them and then teach a live, interactive math lesson. After the lesson, children who need extra support can stay on the meeting and I work through problems with them. 

I remain in near constant contact with students through Google Hangouts. When a child has a question, they shoot me a quick text through Hangouts and occasionally give me a quick video call to ask a question through hangouts. 

What has been an unexpected and fun aspect of online learning is how much more access parents have to me as well. They can pop in to morning meetings, Zoom trouble shoot with me, and a few have appeared in the Flip Grids (program) as well.


Students collaborating with technology during distance learning; The Branch School; Private School in Houston

Distance learning is challenging our students to find new ways to collaborate and to solve their own tech and group dynamic problems without the usual always-available presence of an instructor.  In fact, seventh graders have some unique and fun thoughts on the whole process:

  • I love the silence in my household, I can work better in that way. Also, I can spend more time with my family when I have my breaks.
  •  … instead of waking up early, getting ready fast as possible, and driving to school, I can wake up 5 minutes before class, and “go to school” in my pajamas. Personally, I like this better than the whole hassle of regular school (I still like going to regular school though).
  •  I still have the joy of seeing everyone on Zoom, and I don't mind doing schoolwork at home.   


Preschool student enjoying math assignment outside during distance learning; The Branch School; Private School in Houston

We are only a few weeks into our learning adventure and we can’t wait to get back to our classrooms and see our students every day.  Nevertheless, we are determined to make lemonade from the lemons we have and not be wistful that we can’t have the lemons from our tree on campus.  Until then, we will continue to come up with new and fun learning experiences! Like…….

  • How to continue to teach our students to love and nurture the environment?  We don’t want them to lose interest in their burgeoning green thumbs.  Why not teach them to garden by planting leftovers from dinner to grow new food, like our PK3 class did?   When the first sprouts pop up I want to be on that Zoom call!
  • Traveling to Spain this summer?   Check out our fifth grade research projects on Spanish cities.   They are preparing a slideshow about their city including activities, transportation, restaurants, food, facts, etc.  Perfect for summer travel!
  • Brushing up on Texas History? Our fourth grade is creating a virtual Wax Museum to study famous Texans.  All our students are waiting patiently to Hangout in this museum.  A school tradition with a new twist!

I think the entire Branch School Community would agree that education would be dull without adventure.  Bring on the challenge of Distance Learning.  We are ready to roll!



This blog was written by Sharon Gregory who is our Dean of Students and an alumni parent.  She is a graduate of Cornell University.