In Spring 2020, the BHS Innovation Fund awarded a special COVID-19 Teaching and Learning Response Grant to Brookline High School educators, led by the Curriculum Coordinators, to support their work in preparing for the current school year with the goal of rethinking educational approaches to teaching and learning during the ongoing pandemic. This past Summer, more than 30 Brookline High School teachers, administrators, program leaders and specialists met remotely over the course of three weeks as part of this first-ever multi-departmental collaborative curriculum programming initiative. Representing the Departments of English, Math, Science, Social Studies and World Language, as well as Special Education and Career and Technology Education, participating educators conducted an important assessment of their experiences teaching remotely this past Spring in order to prepare for the school year. Acknowledging the many challenges that the pivot to remote teaching had required due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they used an inquiry model to explore these questions:
- How do we engage students in their learning and help students develop understanding?
- How should we blend synchronous and asynchronous lessons?
- How will we build relationships with students when not able to work with them face to face?
- How should we adjust assessments and diagnostics in a remote learning environment?
Throughout the project, educators used these guiding questions to research and develop best practices and a collaborative, holistic approach to teaching that will:
- More effectively engage students in the remote and hybrid learning process by focusing on strategies to develop executive functioning skills to teach students how to learn remotely as well as approaches to introduce experiential learning work; and
- Support social-emotional learning by incorporating community building activities into each and every lesson to establish student-to-student and student-to-teacher connections in classes.
“I am grateful to the Brookline High School Innovation Fund for making this critical work a positive and productive reality and to BHS teachers and staff for working together to identify the gaps and opportunities to strengthen the remote teaching and learning experience as we continue to navigate the changing academic environment.”
~ Anthony Meyer, Head of School, Brookline High School
Grant Work Yielded New Opportunities & Inspiring Outcomes
BHS faculty members who participated in the project presented and shared their research with colleagues in early Fall in multiple professional development day demonstrations and workshops using the BHS Remote Learning Toolbox, a best-practices online resource designed to help staff teach students effectively while remote. While the Toolbox was not outlined as a deliverable in the grant proposal, teachers quickly realized that the best, most innovative way to share these important recommendations would be to build an online toolkit and make it accessible to all faculty at the high school. It is already proving to be an invaluable resource to many educators.
Topics in the Toolbox include:
- Building a Digital Classroom: Strategies and tools to set up a hybrid classroom
- During Planning: Strategies and tools for taking the analog to a digital environment
- Tech Tools: Tech Tool support from PSB and colleagues, and tech support for students
- Research and Synthesis: A deep dive into the research and synthesis completed by subgroups
Curriculum Coordinators share that working collaboratively across departments yielded several inspiring outcomes. As teachers began to envision the initial back-to-school period, they were excited by opportunities that remote learning presented. With a more flexible block schedule this year, teachers can engage students in assignments and activities that give real-world meaning to school, and increase connection and rigor. Then, moving into the year, teachers anticipate identifying new, experiential work that can involve students in their community. Rethinking teaching in this way will have benefits beyond the pandemic response. Remote strategies can be used when presenting digital material even when BHS returns to in-school learning. If students are unable to be present, teachers will have a menu of activities that students can still follow at home. Because the grant funded inter-departmental work on a large scale for the very first time at BHS, and contributed greatly to creating connections across curriculum, students will benefit by experiencing a more coordinated approach and manner of communication with all their teachers.
Founded in 1998, the BHS Innovation Fund is a community-supported 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is unique for a public high school because it offers grant funding to faculty and administrators for initiatives that aren’t covered in the current curriculum and budget.
“The BHS Innovation Fund has supported teacher-driven curricular initiatives that are innovative, interdisciplinary and forward-thinking for over twenty years. As an organization, we are constantly evolving and responding to the academic needs identified by BHS teachers across departments. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we were thrilled to be able to partner with educators and provide the necessary funding to support this important work during this challenging time at BHS.”
~ Ellen Rizika, Chair, BHS Innovation Fund Board of Directors