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Examples of Creative Ideas for Engaging Students and Families During COVID-19 School Closures

As school buildings remain closed across the country due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), teachers, staff and administrators are finding creative ways to communicate and stay connected with students and families.

These ideas range from daily check-ins via FaceTime to “wave parades” that allow teachers to see their students while maintaining social distancing. Many districts are also exploring new ways to hold school board meetings, creating inspiring videos to share on social media and ensuring the Class of 2020 gets celebrated in some way—just in case a traditional graduation ceremony cannot take place this spring.

Below are some examples of creative ideas we are seeing in school districts nationwide:


Celebrating graduates on social media

The Storm Lake Community School District in Iowa created a social media template to individually celebrate each of its 2020 seniors. Below is an example. Each day, the district posts a different version of this graphic, customized for each student, to its Facebook and Twitter feeds.

To make this happen, district staff have been reaching out to students’ families, asking for a photo of when they were young and a more recent photo (usually a senior picture). In between the two are some quotes from the student, reflecting on what they have learned during their time in Storm Lake schools.


Virtual story time

Another great trend we’ve seen are teachers creating videos for their students. This has taken many forms, including virtual story times in which teachers film themselves reading books aloud. They then post the videos to YouTube or Vimeo and share via email and social media.

Here’s a fun example (with dogs!) from a second-grade teacher in Pennsylvania:


If you would like some tips on creating teacher videos, check out our recent webinar on the topic.


Staff parades and ‘wave caravans’

On March 27, teachers and staff of the Dike-New Hartford Community School District in Iowa drove through their community to wave to children and families, who were standing outside their homes—many with homemade signs.


Here’s another example from the Madison Metropolitan School District in Wisconsin:


Many other districts across the country have been doing similar things. These events can provide a simple, yet impactful, way to maintain strong connections between schools and families during this difficult time.


Continuing the learning process

There’s no substitute for in-the-classroom learning, but school districts are finding creative ways to deliver instruction from a distance, even if the assignments are not required or graded. One key problem schools are grappling with is how to provide resources and instruction to students who may not have reliable internet access at home.

Two school districts in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania are partnering with a PBS affiliate to broadcast daily educational programs for students in the Allentown School District and Bethlehem Area School District. The broadcasts take place in the morning and late afternoon, Monday through Friday.

In South Carolina, education officials are sending Wi-Fi enabled school buses into communities, providing mobile hotspots. While it’s not an ideal situation, students and families can get online by parking their vehicles near the buses.


Virtual board meetings

Most school boards and district leaders are struggling with how to continue to hold business meetings and work sessions with social distancing and shelter in place in full effect. Many have turned to Zoom and other platforms to conduct these meetings virtually.

Here’s just one recent example of a recent meeting from the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District in Pennsylvania:


In fact, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association is providing Zoom licenses to school districts across the state to help ensure school boards can continue to hold their meetings. This is especially important this time of the year, when the budgeting process is usually in full swing.


Video updates and messages to families

Robbins Elementary (Eau Claire, WI) Principal Jake Donze created this fun music video—with an original song—this past weekend. He even had his own kids, who are also stuck at home, help out.


The Chesapeake Public Schools in Virginia created and shared this video with its district community:


With challenges come opportunity

It has been inspiring to see how teachers, students and families are making the best out of a difficult situation to maintain connections, ensure learning continues to take place and keep each other’s spirits up. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are sure to see more positive examples of this type of communication and engagement in schools and districts across the United States.

Learn more and find free templates for communicating by visiting our Coronavirus Communications page. If you would like further guidance or would like to submit other great ideas you would like us to highlight on our blog, contact the Donovan Group.


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