- Zahra Chowdhury, Manal Shala, Naisha Chowdhury
With the transition to virtual learning, PVS teachers have been working harder than ever to keep our students engaged, especially our younger ones. In the elementary science classes, Ms. Cecilia and Ms. Shazia conduct hands-on experiments over Zoom. Ms Cecilia recently did an engineering experiment with her 4th grade class where she hosted a contest to see which team can make the strongest tissue rope that could support a completely filled 64 ounce water bottle, using only two strips of toilet paper. Ms. Cecilia says the purpose of these experiments is to help her “demonstrate how engineers design solutions to problems while at the same time following the criteria and constraints during the design process” to her students.
Ms. Nargis, Pre-K teacher, is also doing hands-on activities to engage her students! Our youngest PVS students have been making their own books of letters and drawing pictures that represent the new letters they are learning. On Fridays, the Pre-K students have show-and-tell, which allows them to share their toys and have fun with each other in an educational setting. The Pre-K students are also completing wonderful Arabic projects.
Ms. Ahlam, elementary Arabic teacher, has been using a wide range of methods to connect and communicate with her students. She has recently introduced several new softwares to help her students learn Arabic. She uses the Memrise app, which helps students memorize important terms and Word Wall, a website where she can create games to help her students with Arabic vocabulary. However, apart from using fun methods to teach her students, Ms. Ahlam has been doing lunch and breakfast over Zoom with her second and third grade classes as a chance to give the students time to connect and talk. She says it’s important to have fun classes to keep students interested and engaged because virtual learning can be difficult sometimes.
In Ms. Hajjar’s computer classes, students have shown a lot of interest and passion for technology. She says, “my students have surprised me many times with their ability to get what I explain and do something more advanced”. She also uses the breakout room feature on Zoom to encourage teamwork amongst her students which has led to a positive result. She says, now, “My students love to solve problems. They have a passion to help others and teach others what they have already learned themselves”.
PVS’s middle school teachers have been using many new methods to connect and interact with their students virtually this quarter. In Br. Omar Al-Ani’s classes, he has been using Kahoot, a game-based learning platform, to teach and to keep his students engaged in class. Br. Al-Ani said, “I think it really helps students a lot when we play games instead of someone just talking.” Br. Al-Ani wants his classes to feel normal, so he does not mute his students during class. He says it feels more like a regular class this way and adds to the environment.
In Mrs. Angela Alomari’s 6th grade class, they have started the novel, The Giver. In order for students to feel engaged and to interact with each other while learning, they have been working on performing their own version of “the Ceremony of Twelve,” a scene from the novel. In 8th grade, Mrs. Alomari’s students have been working on a large comparative study. They are reading three novels at the same time: The Diary of Anne Frank, They Call Us Enemy, and Internment. Mrs. Alomari said, “Our goal is to see how nonfiction accounts of the Holocaust, along with Trump’s Travel Ban, inspired Samira Ahmed to write Internment.”
One of the biggest challenges the PVS Science department has had with virtual schooling is conducting labs, where students usually have hands-on activities and experiments. Mrs. Shazia Hangora, the elementary/middle school lab instructor, has been very creative with incorporating labs virtually. She has been using three different approaches in her labs: lab simulations, demonstrations, and student-led projects. In the lab simulations, the students use online portals that allow them to do auto-generated labs online. Mrs. Hangora also does demonstrations for the students, where she performs the experiments while providing explanations and asking students questions to keep them engaged. She has gotten many positive responses from the students as she said, “the biggest hit of my labs was the lava lamp and ice cream. I think the kids enjoyed it the most and they were pretty excited about that.” The third approach Mrs. Hangora has been using is assigning STEM based projects for the students to do with simple household supplies.
As the first quarter has come to an end, PVS students and teachers have accomplished so much and have grown confident in virtual learning and teaching. PVS High School has not only adjusted its curriculum/teaching methods to fit the virtual learning environment, but also to address pressing matters in the nation. Ms. Angela Alomari’s 9th grade English class has been going over the genre of race relations. Ms. Alomari said, “We have read speeches from those who wanted to abolish slavery and oppose racism, the works of Booker T. Washington, WEB DuBois, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and now we are reading The Hate U Give. Students just completed a collaborative research project where they investigated specific topics to see how they’re all interconnected to form a system where police brutality continues to happen with very little consequences to officers.” Other teachers are teaching important lessons in lighter manners.
Dr. Nabil Bayakly shared a story from his 12th grade AP Environmental Science class. It was one of his students’ birthdays and Dr. Bayakly asked the student how she was going to celebrate, to which she said she doesn't celebrate birthdays. Dr. Bayakly suggested that she plants a tree as he said, “I am trying to make them ‘live’ what we learn in classes so this will cause a change in the way they see life and hopefully change their life-practices for the better. I think it is very noteworthy to make our students more aware that their personal celebrations (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and others) could be thought of as a means to improve the conditions on our beloved planet.” Lessons like these are taken from the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW).
In his 9th grade Islamic Studies class, Br. Omar Al-Ani has been going over the Seerah of the Prophet (SAW) discussing stories and events but also helping students connect dots and encouraging them to analyze these stories and events. To help keep his students engaged, Br. Al-Ani has been using kahoot and other online resources. Through these diverse teaching resources, Br. Al-Ani feels he is better able to hold his students’ attention and interest.