- Voice of San Diego - https://www.voiceofsandiego.org -

Exploring the World and Building Relationships During the Pandemic

Living in our new normal is challenging. Everything we do, from getting a haircut to grabbing a quick bite to eat, requires careful planning and attention.

But just as every cloud has a silver lining, there are also some very positive aspects about living through this pandemic.

One such bright spot is how Ingenuity Charter School students now have the chance to engage in exciting opportunities to travel, cook, play chess, and practice mindfulness — all from the comfort and safety of their own home.

Virtual field trips to experience our world and human history

Ingenuity Charter School is committed to serving San Diego’s underrepresented middle and high school population by offering high-quality distance learning that fits around their unique home and work responsibilities.

To keep students engaged, challenged, and excited about their education in the time of COVID-19, Ingenuity staff stepped it up a notch by introducing a wide array of virtual field trips and student clubs.

“Our virtual field trips let students explore natural and cultural landmarks around the world,” said Katie Reamer, an art instructor and independent study teacher at Ingenuity.

Some of the places students “visited” so far are Ellis Island, the M&M Factory, and the Hawaiian volcanoes. Coming up are virtual tours of escape rooms and art museums.

“Personally, I am excited to expose students to artists who fought for social justice,” Reamer said. “I will be adding a virtual field trip tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Learning Lab about the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s-70s.”

After each field trip, students write a reflection piece about their experience and what they learned. Then, Ingenuity teachers follow up in a class discussion.

“All of us try to engage our students in the discussion just as we would in a live classroom,” Reamer said. “For example, we ask every student to respond to a question in the chat box, or to select an emoji as a ‘choral response’ to check for understanding.”

Student clubs get more popular by the day

Ingenuity created their student clubs after hosting a focus group with students and their parents to learn about their distance learning experiences so far.

“Our clubs are a real chance for students to socialize, which is something they have lost during the pandemic,” Reamer said.

In her Fine Art Club, Reamer has noticed that every week, more students get comfortable turning on their cameras as they work. While making art together, the students also chat and share things about themselves. “It provides a small sense of normalcy I think we all crave right now,” she said.

And with Ingenuity’s wide range of student club offerings, there is truly something for everyone.

“Our clubs encourage personal growth in areas like vegan cooking, computer coding, chess, fine art, and mindfulness,” Reamer said. “Students can join as many clubs as they want. We encourage them to try out several clubs so that they are exposed to different experiences.”

Fellow Ingenuity instructors Ms. Wells and Ms. Harang have also started a student group called “Hot Topics.” This is a safe space for students to share their thoughts as they discuss current topics like racial equity, social justice, and life experiences.

“I feel like since we started offering our clubs, students have been even more engaged with Ingenuity,” said Stephanie Krakowski, Ingenuity Resource Specialist of five years. “We have to thank our dedicated staff for that, who have personally reached out to students to invite them, and who also attend the club meetings themselves.”

Krakowski is thrilled that her vegan cooking club has become especially popular with Ingenuity students.

“We have an amazing local vegan chef, Katie Farina, who meets with us virtually once a week,” she said. Since the cooking club began, students have learned to make delicious, easy vegan recipes like chocolate-covered banana bites, hummus quesadillas, and apple nachos.

Some students have even gotten their families to join in the cooking lessons. Ingenuity provides all students with a bag of ingredients for each recipe so that everyone has a chance to cook it.

The virtual field trips and clubs help make sure that students are still forging strong relationships with their peers, teachers, and their own family members during this social distancing period.

“Building relationships is even more important now,” Reamer said. “Taking the time to get to know the students, and have them know one another, creates a very engaged, safe learning community.”

If you’re interested in providing more opportunities for your child in academic and emotional health, please fill out an online application at ingenuitycharter.org [1].