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EHS seniors collaborate on ideas to improve distance learning in the future

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.
EHS seniors collaborate on ideas to improve distance learning in the future

When it was announced that students would engage in distance learning for the remainder of the school year, the opportunity to participate in a May Term project was no longer an option. With this in mind, seniors Sydney Piere and Jack Piere proposed an alternative to this year-end project. Their idea was to have their classmates work in teams to create proposed solutions for future problems that might arise should distance learning continue. From that suggestion, the Class of 2020 - Big Idea Project was formed.

The Big Idea Project gave seniors this challenge: to brainstorm creative solutions for how EHS could maintain academic rigor, student support and wellness, relationships between students and with teachers, and promote staff wellness, in light of social distancing and distance learning. The team with the winning idea would receive $2000, provided by an anonymous donation.

Students from across the class proposed different ideas, with a total of 10 idea submissions coming from both teams and individuals. A group of EHS teachers and administrators, and district administrators reviewed the ideas and advanced five of the ideas for voting by the senior class. Team names were removed from the project ideas for the voting, so their fellow students could provide commentary purely based on the ideas themselves.

The Class of 2020 voted for the winning idea, which came from Nora Clarkowski, Lindsay Nelson, and Annika Utoft. Their winning proposal was called “Structure for Success,” which suggested incorporating alternating block day scheduling to help address declined motivation in the absence of a school community. This would allow for longer class periods and students to be able to focus on fewer  subjects during the day, concentrating their efforts.

Principal Andy Beaton and Sara Swenson, the Senior May Term coordinator, were very happy with the student participation. “There was clear thinking, thoughtful and well-written responses -- very insightful idea submissions!” said Swenson.

Beaton said he is planning to set up a meeting with Clarkowski, Nelson, and Utoft, along with administration and other staff, to discuss and expand upon their idea as an option for implementation if distance learning continues.