Families Adjust From Home
Students Use Experience-Based Methods To Learn
Creating a pizza, visiting a local park, giving back to their community through charity work, planting gardens and scavenger hunts are just some of the ways Jamestown Public Schools’ families are incorporating learning at home during the school closure. Learning through experience enables children (and adults) to pursue their own areas of interest while gaining skills to navigate through real-life situations. It encourages students to have firsthand experiences with the materials, rather than learning from someone else’s description in a textbook or lecture. It is one of the most fun, engaging and effective ways to learn and process new concepts. The main steps of experiential learning are: experiencing, observing, analyzing and experimenting.
Michelle McDowell, JPS Chief Academic Officer, expressed her enthusiasm for all of the incredible experiential learning opportunities that students and families have been sharing while learning at home. “I have been so excited by all of the fantastic learning through experiences that our students have been doing at home! Through these opportunities, our students develop knowledge, skills, and values from ‘real life’ experiences outside a traditional classroom setting. This firsthand experience plays an important role in retaining ideas, increasing interest, applying knowledge and developing teamwork and communication skills. Our JPS family amazes me with how they are making the best of this difficult time!”
JPS parent, Beth Anderson, has incorporated giving back into her children’s learning at home. The family created a “bucket list” of activities they want to do on New Year’s Day and one of this year’s was how they could give back to their community. The school closure gave the family an opportunity to start. Her two children, Ring Elementary School third grader, Lily Speadling, and first grader, Richard Speadling III, each chose a project. Lily chose to help sick kids in the hospital and Richard decided to help homeless people. Together with Anderson, the kids created a free pantry like the ones they saw for free books. The “pantry” is in front of their house and says, “Take what you need, and give what you can.” They also started a Facebook page where people can find out how to donate to the “pantry” or start their own, called Chautauqua County Little Free Project (@chqcolittlefreeproject). In addition to the pantry, the kids have collected items that will be donated to UPMC for kids who are sick in the hospital. They are making goodie bags including everything from stuffed animals to boredom busting activities.
“It is obviously so important to learn so you can become smart but it is equally important to learn to be a good person,” said Anderson. “I want my children to know that not everyone has what they have and by helping others through a difficult time, it can not only benefit your community, but it can make you feel really good too.”
JPS parent, Alicia Evans, tries to add a different learning experience with her kids, Fletcher fourth grader, Aubree, and first grader, Elijah, every week.
“I have a very active 6-year-old boy and it’s hard to have him do worksheets all day. I want learning to be fun and I don’t want either of my children to dread homeschool. Aubree can research anyone, place, event, or animal. She reports at least three things to us and writes about it. We also have done baking where they do measurements, read instructions, etc. We have done scavenger hunts where we go around the block. A couple of times a week, we bring them somewhere, where they can learn. We have been to Long Point Park, Barcelona and the Jamestown River Walk during this pandemic. We plan on going to the Audubon Trails, Panama Rocks, Rim Rock and Kinzua Dam.”
The idea for a Long Point Park history lesson came from Elijah’s teacher Johnna Conti. She had done a Facebook Live video at Long Point walking with her kids and coming up with three things they learned.
Evans and her husband took the kids to the park and while there; Evans’ husband took Aubree to the history post. He is a huge history buff and told the kids to read all the signs to find out how Long Point developed. During their learning experience, the kids ran and climbed on tree logs and big rocks. Aubree is a competitive gymnast so she used some logs as a balance beam and practiced her routine.
“I am a firm believer that kids learn all different ways and I try to include hands-on experiences (crafts, science experiments, baking) as well as active experiences (going places and learning about them) and the workbooks provided by the district in our daily routine,” said Evans. “These ‘out of classroom’ or should I say ‘out of home’ experiences help create lasting memories, fun educational learning and helps get us fresh air, and a break from our ‘new normal’ way of adapting to this pandemic our world is facing.”
JPS parent, Sarah Ballard, has been trying to mix doing packets of work sent home from Lincoln School with some online learning and getting outside. Her children, third grader, Bronx, first grader, Isabella, and kindergartner, Danika, have done yoga videos on YouTube, watched science videos and nature shows on Disney+, practiced fractions in baking, helped with home improvement — stripping wallpaper and painting, and they’ve gone to the Audubon and walked trails and completed a nature scavenger hunt including a close encounter with deer. They visited Allegheny State Park to climb rocks and have a picnic. Their older kids have also mastered the skill of bike riding with no training wheels.
Persell teacher, Marcy Miller, has been spending time with her cousin’s daughter, or her best friend, as Fletcher School fourth grader, Nora Brown, refers to her. They recently took a trip to Kinzua Dam to explore and learn outside.
“As a mother of two adult children and a teacher I think it’s important for kids to learn through exploration,” said Miller. “They learn skills such as decision making and problem solving through exploring. They also learn self-confidence and an appreciation for nature. One of my favorite bonuses is aside from snapping pictures, phones stay in our pockets and we have a chance to communicate with no interruptions. Nora was full of information she learned from her teacher such as how moss grows on trees that she was excited to be able to see for herself and share with me. She put into practice some of the skills she learned in the classroom as we hiked and took samples of bark, moss, sticks, leaves, and rocks home to explore more and share with her mom and dad.”
If you need more information about learning at home during this time, please visit www.jpsny.org/learningathome for additional resources.