HomeCampusHands-on electives making do with trying circumstances

Hands-on electives making do with trying circumstances

Published Sept. 13, 2020


One of Carmel High School’s most praised features is the wide variety of electives offered to students, but with Monterey County schools not able to open until the county meets the state’s health requirements and schools forced to move to online teaching, some of the hands-on learning that comes from those classes is getting lost in the absence of the physical school site.

Having to shift an entire curriculum online has been an uphill battle for teachers of language or technology-based electives, but it is especially difficult for those who teach a class that tends to be hands-on and have students physically performing a skill, such as band or dance, or require materials that teachers can not provide in distance learning, like weights from the weight room or certain software for digital art.

But all is not lost. 

“Even though I had experience with online teaching, the spring semester last year was hard because it was such a surprise,” says Holly Lederle, who teaches Photography, Graphic Design and AP Studio Art. “Now I have organized for teaching in this format.”

Debbie French, who teaches freshman P.E. and Weight Training, is facing the difficult task of figuring out how to instruct fitness online. She now has her classes tune in to Zoom meetings where she goes over the components of fitness they’re focusing on, and then posts assignments on Google Classroom where students have to fill out answers on a Google Form, assuring that students are accountable. By also pushing out videos to her pupils, she knows that kids can be safe while doing exercises, a point that has resulted in her Weight Training classes being unable to use weights in class since the liability risk for students using weights unsupervised is too high. 

Students are wishing they were in the classroom, but making do with the situation.

“I would rather be in the weight room right now, [but I’m using] my own body weight and doing push-ups and sit-ups,” freshman Oscar Weigel says. 

Dance students also deal with the struggle of performing physical actions, or in their case choreography, online and have had to alter their learning habits. 

“My teacher has us participate in weekly dance classes taught by other classmates in the program, which is really fun because we get to support each other and encourage choreographic skills,” says junior Alexa Julian, who takes Dance IV. 

Since dance students will be unable to perform in front of an audience, teacher Kristine Tarozi has altered her students’ focus to a new project that will hopefully make up for the loss of performances. 

“We will choreograph pieces to put together in videos,” says sophomore Sage Melton, a Dance IV student and Tarozzi’s daughter. “Although the situation for these classes is not ideal, they are a way for me to destress in the middle of hours of online school.”

Dance isn’t the only course looking for a virtual way to display the year’s work. Grace Poletti, who teaches Drama at CHS, is having her students focus on a virtual production premiering when the semester ends, as well as other little projects involving scene analysis and the growing phenomena of voice-overs.

“The voice-over area is actually booming despite the shut down of most parts of theater and film, and it is a job that can be done remotely,” says Poletti. “In fact, remote V.O. is becoming the norm…so this is an excellent opportunity to study something we have never covered before.”

In Band, Orchestra and Digital Music classes, teacher Brian Handley is having his students uncover music theory, an idea new to most of them that wouldn’t otherwise be taught if the circumstances were normal. 

“Handley is having us sign up for websites that offer music theory lessons or any kind of musical education, such as Soundtrap,” senior Orchestra student Kento Husted says, “[which is] similar to GarageBand, and it allows students to record, share or collaborate with others to make music.”

Although interested in the topic of music theory, music students really want nothing more than to be playing in a classroom with the entire group. Playing an instrument is always more enjoyable with people who also express an interest and a passion for music. 

“Although I am excited to see what this year has to offer, nothing can replace the excitement and satisfaction that in-person Band brings to the table,” says Sophia Cho, a sophomore Band student. “The connections and teamwork in Band is what makes it so special–online school wipes this away entirely.”

Sophomore Peyton Kelly manages to make the most of her Art 2/3 class by practicing her painting capabilities. (Photo courtesy of Peyton Kelly)

Like anyone, teens can find it hard to adapt to this change knowing what they would have been doing if school was in-person, even in classes where there doesn’t necessarily need to be a group setting to make it fun, such as Art. 

“I obviously wish we were in school because it is much easier to do art there and use all the provided materials and we can have more instruction,” Art 2/3 sophomore Peyton Kelly says. 

One of the problems posed by distance learning has been how to supply students with materials. Despite the school hosting days where students could swing by and pick things up, for classes like Art those supplies couldn’t be handed out whether it be because of a limited amount or the expense, so teachers have had to put some units on pause as a result.  

“Our teacher right now is having us use just a pencil to sketch,” Art 1 freshman Morgan Mayer says. “I know that we will be receiving some art supplies later, so I am good with just sketching for now.” 

More than anything, kids just want to be back in the classroom, something they thought they’d never say. They miss the environment, they miss their friends, and they miss being able to easily follow along with hands-on electives. And teachers are in the same boat as them: They want to be with their students in a classroom. 

Lederle can’t wait to share her passion for photography with students in person: “I hope when we do return, it will feel like a celebration.”

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