A Year of Change Brings Berwyn South Back to Their Mission
CHALLENGE: Teaching and Learning at a Distance
This past year, Berwyn South School District 100 Preschool Program, like many other preschool programs across the country, faced a new challenge: how to effectively teach children in a remote or hybrid learning environment. Since teaching and learning wouldn’t take place in a classroom, Amanda Thompson, Preschool Director, believed focusing on their mission would provide a path to supporting development and learning for the three- to five-year-old children in their program. The team at Berwyn South believes in
- providing a positive, nurturing, safe classroom environment;
- creating a developmentally appropriate, inclusive, play-based learning environment;
- collaborating with staff, families, and their community partners; and
- ensuring every child and family has access to equitable educational experiences.
SOLUTION: Leverage Teaching Strategies Solutions to Fulfill Mission
Thompson and her team made a plan to support all children and their families at a distance by focusing on their mission. The team crafted a plan to utilize Teaching Strategies solutions to support teaching and learning at a distance; create strong connections between families and caregivers; and learn from, collaborate with, and support each other.
Berwyn South School District 100 Preschool Program leveraged the following components of the Teaching Strategies connected ecosystem.
- Professional development
- The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool
- The Creative Curriculum® Cloud
RESULTS: The Perfect Combination: Great Tools and Great Teachers
The dedicated team of teachers at Berwyn South made a big impact by bringing Teaching Strategies solutions to life in their program. To prepare for distance learning, teachers participated in Teaching Strategies professional development to learn how to meet the needs of children and stay connected with families in any setting. The Creative Curriculum® Cloud provided 24/7 access to all of their curriculum resources from anywhere and put everything they needed at their fingertips. Teachers planned together, shared resources with one another, and leveraged strategies from professional development sessions to support all children and families.
The Creative Curriculum® Cloud was a game changer. It provided us a platform that met the goals of our mission statement: it was play-based, developmentally appropriate, and solidly built for collaboration amongst families and staff. ‘The Cloud’ allowed all teachers to teach the same studies together, from multiple locations, easily. It opened the door to communication amongst staff and families. It kept us on the same path, focused on the same goals. Teachers have collaborated in ways they never have before.
– Amanda Thompson, Preschool Director
Berwyn South School District 100
Throughout the year, the team found professional development sessions with Teaching Strategies experts essential to their success. The opportunity to talk through strategies together and get insights from an expert and from each other was invaluable. It created a network of educators facing the same challenges and allowed them to solve and learn together. The Berwyn South team would invest in professional development again “in a heartbeat” because it was a true differentiator for them.
Children and families got to know their teachers in a deeper way. For example, pets became a part of everyday conversation after meeting each other’s pets during a study of pets from The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool. Dogs barking in the background and cats running across keyboards became the norm during distance learning.
Learning from a distance really pulled back the curtain. The family mobile app, using ‘the Cloud,’ being on live video calls—children and families were able to see that I’m not this mystical, magical creature who lives at school. I have a home. I have pets. I like peanut butter. And at the end of the year, my heart was touched so much deeper than it ever was. We weren’t just giving them an experience; we were experiencing it together.
– Sadie Watson, Preschool Teacher
Komensky Elementary School
Building Partnerships with Families
Using the family mobile app and the family-friendly, developmentally appropriate activities from The Creative Curriculum® Cloud, families became more involved than ever in their children’s learning. Family members, caregivers, siblings, and babysitters were sitting beside the children, learning with them, and understanding for the first time how their children were progressing in the areas of development and learning.
Reflecting on the past year, one teacher commented, “If you had told me last year that I was going to teach preschoolers virtually, I would have said no way.” But the family mobile app allowed families and caregivers to maintain a strong connection to their child’s teachers. Families shared observations with teachers to use as documentation within GOLD® for formative assessment. Teachers were able to share resources with families to support learning at home, including At-Home Guided Learning Plans, family Mighty Minutes®, Guided Learning Experiences, and ReadyRosieTM videos. They were able to share resources based on the children’s abilities and catch up on moments from everyday life, like a picture of a child’s first T-ball game that could even be used for documentation.
In the family mobile app, I could communicate back and forth with families. It allowed me to get to know them, better understand the progress of their child, and opened communication with them in a way I’ve never had with families before. Sharing and receiving information via the app made two-way communication and scaffolding their learning based on their abilities so much easier.
– Katie Reinesto, Preschool Teacher
Pershing Elementary School
The Impact on Children
Families and caregivers weren’t just engaged in two-way app communications; families got involved in read-alouds of children’s literature from The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool. Family members noted that the literature within The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool offered diversity in skin color, voices or accents in other languages, and customs and traditions from other cultures. Families and teachers appreciated how inclusivity and diversity were reflected throughout learning in the children’s books.
I’ve seen so many books that feature skin that looks like mine. Children were excited to see someone that looked like they did, like the I Forgot book. They were intrigued to know that teachers and adults forget things, too. Not only is diversity reflected in the skin color, but also in the voice and hearing a book that is familiar to them being read in a different language. It’s important for our kids to experience diversity—not just certain times of the year.
– Kinya Willaby, Preschool Teacher
Children’s Center Cicero Berwyn
Families were thankful for being part of their children’s learning and progress and for the important role their teachers play in their children’s lives.
And what did the children think about this past year? A favorite of children was virtual free play during the Buildings Study. Teachers sent home plastic building bricks so children could build something as tall as they were. If they ran out of bricks, they used books or other items around the house. The experience demonstrated that when children are curious, investigate, discover, and play, they learn.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Solutions Berywn South Will Take with Them
After their experience, the Berwyn South team will continue using Teaching Strategies solutions for
- planning, communicating with families, and sharing observations;
- collaborating with each other and teaching the same studies at the same time;
- differentiating instruction with developmentally appropriate resources;
- incorporating children’s literature that reflects diverse experiences for all children; and
- growing with ongoing professional development opportunities.
Our goal moving forward is to keep going. To use The Creative Curriculum® Cloud, continue the communication with the family mobile app, and involve parents in collaborative assessment with GOLD®. It’s really fun to listen to parents now. Parents are using our language now when they are talking about what their children can do. They talk about the objectives for development and learning.”
– Amanda Thompson, Preschool Director
Berwyn South overcame incredible challenges. The team had an incredibly positive impact on children. Year over year, their GOLD® assessment data shows growth in every area of development and learning, and they thank the Teaching Strategies team for playing a key role in their success and our dedication in providing solutions that helped make great teaching and learning a reality for the children in their preschool program.