After sixteen weeks of learning online, Keystone Academy students from Grades 6 to 8 and Grades 10 to 11 finally returned to campus on June 1 (Monday). It was a productive week for our middle and high schoolers who were welcomed warmly by Secondary School teachers, academic leaders, and school staff.
The returning students attended a meeting in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) to hear the back-to-school remarks of Head of School Malcolm McKenzie and the reminders of Head of Middle School Dr. Maureen McCoy. Teachers outside of China sent their greetings to students via a recorded video presentation.
In the classrooms, students from different grade levels participated in various activities that partially made use of online instruction. In one Grade 6 class, for example, students played MinecraftEDU with their Individuals and Societies teacher Florine Keja, who is here on campus. The idea, she said, was to introduce her non-Chinese speaking students to the key inventions that had shaped the course of Chinese civilization through a scavenger hunt within a computer-generated world.
“It’s a fun way for them to interact with the learning material instead of doing research or being told to read books. This is just a different way where they’re having fun while also learning,” she added.
Students from one Grade 7 Math class, meanwhile, played classroom games together with their classmates. Several teenagers balanced a balloon on their heads—a seemingly quirky task, but their teacher Ashley Qiu said it would help them find a strategy to keep it from falling.
Secondary students were also able to appreciate the new 210-square-meter Keystone Dance studio, which was completed in December 2019. Dance teacher Yang Zheng held her first classes there with her ninth-grade students, where they tried out hand-and-leg coordination exercises.
Over in Grade 10, a group of students in a Drama class delivered a skit for the first time since January, incorporating the theater knowledge they acquired during the online learning program. Student actor Ailing Duan said she felt very fortunate to be with her classmates for a performance that looked effortless, even though they had rehearsed and planned its settings only through a video conference app.
“It makes me feel more motivated when I see more people around me—and I believe everyone feels the same,” Ailing added.
One of the eleventh-grade students, Jack Meng, felt nervous before seeing his grade-level peers for the first time since they had all gone on holiday in late January. Jack has already been staying at his Keystone dorm for his 14-day self-isolation and quarantine period on campus. A couple of moments after meeting his friends again, he said, “It’s like we’re back to normal!” Jack added that he would miss the flexibility of the online learning program, saying it helped him manage his time wisely.
Keystone faculty and non-teaching staff were elated to see students enjoying classroom instruction again. High School Library assistant Zhai Haiyan saw so many students coming back to use the library for self-study or group meetings while still observing physical distancing measures. Some of them, she added, were excited to read new books and borrowed materials about Chinese civilization and math learning. Ms. Zhai said the Keystone Libraries has procured new book collections and materials that are now cataloged and available for students.
In one of the Secondary Science laboratories, technician Sue Qu also felt the excitement of students who have been wanting to see and socialize with their friends personally. The Grade 6 science classes that she coordinates conduct demonstrations to allow students to give a “real-life feeling and connection” to the topic they are learning.
Middle School Drama teacher Karen Bailey-Summers, meanwhile, enjoyed the presence of her ninth-grade students, especially because they were “so in the groove” in their drama and design projects. She observed how the close connections and collaborations between the students were strengthened after the 16-week online learning program.
“It is so much better to be able to come over the online learning period and to have kids in actual classes,” she added. “In my 30 years of teaching, I’ve never had this situation where I haven’t got my students face-to-face. In Drama, lessons are applied and so you cannot just apply them via the computer. Now, students can really act it out.”
Head of School Malcolm McKenzie reminded the students to “enjoy, have a good time, and stay healthy and safe” in the remaining three weeks of the semester.
“Remember the masks, the physical distancing, the hand hygiene, and the temperature checks. But it is also important to enjoy being back because we’ve been waiting a long time for you and you’ve been waiting a long time to get back,” Mr. McKenzie said in one of the assemblies on Monday. “We’re here, and let’s have a really good time and let’s get back to learning and enjoying each other’s company right now.”
To see more of the classroom activities in the past week, check out our photo gallery, right here.