Nordonia Hills teachers adjust art, music classes due to COVID-19

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Desks have been spaced apart in the music classroom at Lee Eaton.

NORTHFIELD CENTER – Virtual art projects. Stationary activities. Plexiglass dividers.

While there are challenges in teaching hands-on activities such as art and music, teachers and staff at the Nordonia Hills schools have found ways to expose their students to the arts.

For example, Sara Grigger, who teaches fifth and sixth grade visual art at Lee Eaton Elementary School, said while her classes are similar to how she taught pre-pandemic, some adjustments were made to enhance student safety. Some differences include tables with plexiglass dividers and four students per table, and having students bring their own supply pouch.

“If I have a student come in without something, if I can sanitize it, they can borrow it,” Grigger said. “If they need a Sharpie, I will get them one, then at end of day I’ll sanitize it

The plexiglass dividers are sanitized at end of each day, Grigger said.

One useful resource for teaching art is the internet, Grigger said.

“Theres’s a lot of ways to make digital art online,” she said. “For example, we learned to create a digital mandala.”

Her students also have learned about classic and contemporary artists, Grigger said. Recently, her class discussed Frida Kahlo, famed Mexican painter known for her self-portraits. Talk then shifted to Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist whose work was seen at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2018 in Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors.

Tina Lantz, who teaches music to Lee Eaton’s fifth- and sixth-graders, said that usually her classes are “generally very hands on,” with students experimenting with instruments, sitting in different configurations, and participating in partner and group projects.

“This is something we are not able to do this year,” Lantz said.

This year, her classes of 24 to 26 students are assigned desks, and the floors are marked for spacing. Masks are always worn, and there are no shared instruments or equipment. At times, the students may use Boomwhackers, but only in one class per day; after they are used, they are sanitized.

“Stationary learning, it’s more difficult but it’s definitely not impossible,” Lantz said. “The kids seem to really enjoy doing it. While the stuff we are doing is different, they are enjoying it. They are catching on more quickly.”

As a result, Lantz said, some things they are doing this year such as more structure will carry over in future years.

One thing the students enjoy is using the desks as percussion instruments, Lantz said.

“Louise has heard us banging on our desks,” Lantz said. “That’s one of our percussion activities.”

“It’s not as noisy in the art room,” Grigger said and laughed.

Grigger said that Google Classroom has been a useful tool for online learning. She said she likes to post slides and video clips for her students, items that the parents also can see.

“A lot of times I tried to find things that are local, so students can go see it,” Grigger said. “It’s been different but it’s still effective.”

Lantz said that teachers can record themselves to aid in learning.

“It’s really scary recording yourself realizing that people will watch it,” Lantz said. “But it is you teaching. We can get feedback right away through Google forms. It makes for a more personal experience. There is a lot more student contact online.”

“The kids love seeing videos of teachers so can see teachers without masks,” Grigger added. “I feel they experience you a little more in the lessons.”

“Or they laugh at us,” Lantz said.

One thing Lee Eaton had to postpone this year was its sixth-grade choir program, Lantz said. Typically, there are about 100 students who participate in the choir, but even with dividing the group into two 50-student sessions, “it’s just not possible this year.” Lantz added that the possibility of bringing back the choir will be evaluated for next semester.

“As much as singing in choir is awesome and wonderful because of the size and limitations, we can’t do it safely,” Lantz said.

Louise Teringo, the interim principal at Lee Eaton, said the students there have been meeting five days a week.

“You can’t replace that human being,” Teringo said.

The online tools have helped with education, Teringo said. For example, teachers use video to reach out to their students.

“On Fridays, for example, they will do a touch base ‘hey, you should be here at this point,’” Teringo said.

Todd Stuart, the director of curriculum, instruction and professional development, said that choir and band were being taught in-person at the high school and middle school. On the occasions where those schools would need to go all-online, Stuart said he purchased software that will allow students to record their performances remotely.

“This program will allow the students to continue to practice and for teachers to track student growth and mastery,” Stuart said.

The district’s teachers also can take advantage of an online platform called The Art of Education, Stuart said. This provides lessons, videos and curriculum options that can be used “no matter what environment we are learning in.”

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com