Connectivity during these socially distant times is so important and exactly why community-building events and programming are woven into Hamden Hall's distance learning model currently in place for students at all levels.
“Obviously a very large part of the school day for students of all ages is the social component and engagement with friends and teachers. We have always likened our school community to that of a family – as was established under our second headmaster, Herbert H. Vreeland Jr., in 1927. As such, it was imperative that our distance learning curriculum include programming and activities that support and advance community-building,” maintained Head of School Bob Izzo.
Interaction among students may be digital at this point, but it’s widespread within each division – including during the all-important lunch hour!
Video conferencing has enabled Lower Schoolers to view and chat with their schoolmates while eating lunch and taking a break from their virtual classes. Middle Schoolers have been able to do the same with their Middle School Advocates – those juniors and seniors who mentor and act as role models to the seventh- and eighth-graders.
“Seeing the kids’ faces (even if they are in a little square on Zoom!) when they see each other in Hornet lunchtimes and morning meetings is so endearing and conducive to the overall learning that is going on throughout the virtual school day,” said Lower School Director Lorri Carroll.
Virtual assemblies also help enhance community as students all “tune in” at the same time to view outside guests, fellow students, and familiar faculty faces.
“It has been a priority for us to make sure our students feel connected in the Upper School,” said Academic Dean Kim Porto. “Each week a new group of seniors is producing a digital assembly that contains a picture theme for the week and a challenge of the week. We are also doing birthday shout-outs during assembly.”
The Lower School has continued its tradition of singing the school song and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of assemblies. Tomorrow’s special guest, Adelka Polak from Sova Dance and Puppet Theater, will have two live performances for students in Grades PreSchool through 6.
The Upper School Chess Club started up a digital chess tournament this week, coordinated by junior Spencer McCleery. Participants did not have to be club members and players with all levels of experience were welcome.
"Playing a game of chess during social distancing is a great way to catch up with friends and develop chess skills, regardless of ability level. I think the tournament is a good chance for participants to display their competitive spirit and connect with classmates that they haven’t been able to spend time with in person," said Spencer.
Lower Schoolers can also try their hand at chess in a digital after-school extended course that’s coordinated by Grade 4 teacher Sara Dixon. Through the site ChessKids.com, Hamden Hall participants are able to play against one another, which Mrs. Dixon explained aids with improving problem-solving abilities and academic performance.
And after the successful Health Heroes challenge last week, Middle School students are now engaged in Quarantine Cooks: Earth Day Challenge. A video hosted by science teacher Beth Richter and starring science teacher Aidan Clark-Long as he whips up a green smoothie in his kitchen, challenges students to plan, develop, and create a unique dish or recipe using “simple pantry ingredients.”
“Each recipe is like a lab – it requires patience, observational skills, and critical thinking,” said Mr. Clark-Long in the video.
Students can videotape their final concoctions or send a photo of the result. Ms. Richter noted that there are “special incentives for earth-friendly recipes and ingredients.” Additionally, for every student who participates, the Middle School Student Council will donate $5 to Frontline Foods, an organization that helps local restaurants stay in business by preparing much-needed meals for healthcare workers in New Haven.
Adding an extra day of virtual advisory meetings for Middle School students has also been important, according to Middle School Director Brian Christman.
“We start and end the week in advisory, so we can talk to the kids about how to stay connected and then follow up with them to talk about how it went. Students are definitely hungry for the connection. Attendance at club meetings has been excellent. They appreciate the opportunity to brainstorm and identify ways to improve their lives and others’ lives during a tough time. They keep coming up with new ideas every time we get together,” said Mr. Christman.