Some parents may be concerned about their children having ‘missed out’ on their education over the last few months. The teachers at AISL are a dedicated, highly qualified cohort who are constantly upskilling in the field of education. Please know that, as educators, we are trained to differentiate learning.
Here are two ways you might approach extra ‘learning’, if you are at all concerned, in your home this summer.
What will August look like?
I am frequently asked what I think August will look like at AISL. There are many facets to the answer. I know for certain that school will re-open. I also know for certain that we have a strong preference for resuming face-to-face learning ON CAMPUS. In reality, the decision to re-open our campus will be made much closer to the time, most likely in mid-July. In the meantime, we will continue with weekly email updates to keep you updated on our plans.
The decision to re-open campus will depend heavily on the COVID-19 situation at the time. Much is being written and theorized about whether African nations, like Zambia, are likely to have a different experience with COVID-19 than other countries. Some argue that our climate, previous experience with disease, and overall youth will help minimize the harm. Others say that we are just proceeding a bit more slowly than other countries toward a widespread crisis. At the moment, there does not seem to be any scientific consensus.
The COVID-19 situation will influence two key factors in our decision to re-open our campus. First, like all schools in Zambia, we will need to get the green light from the Ministries of Health and General Education. Second, we will need to be very confident that we can provide a safe and healthy environment for our students and staff. To this end, we have convened a Re-opening Task Force with staff and parent volunteers to explore the complexities of campus health and safety and make recommendations to the administration.
As I explained in the recent parent meeting with the Board of Directors, we are planning for three August scenarios (see visual below). The first scenario is a fully open campus. This would mean that the COVID-19 situation will have diminished to such an extent that we can resume normal or nearly-normal school operations. The third scenario is a continuation of distance learning. This would occur if the health and safety situation deteriorates to the extent that reopening campus safely is impossible. The second scenario represents a middle ground, a hybrid between the other two. In this scenario, our campus would be open but health and safety conditions would require significant restrictions. These restrictions could include a limitation on how many people can be on campus, what ages of students are allowed, and/or what activities are permitted. As an added complication, we recognize that changes in the COVID-19 situation may require us to shift back and forth between these scenarios.
Even if August brings a re-opened campus, we expect that a large percentage of our students will have to carry on with distance learning. This would be either because their families are overseas and are not yet able to return to Lusaka or they are in Lusaka and do not feel comfortable sending their children to campus. Rest assured that, regardless of which scenario we open with in August, we will be planning to support ALL our students.
Planning for such a wide range of contingencies is extraordinarily complex. Please join me in thanking our leadership team, the Board of Directors, and the Re-opening Task Force for their hard work. They are daily faced with decisions for which there are no clear answers, no precedent to fall back on, and no agreement on what the future holds. Although I do not know which scenario will be in place in August, I know without question that school (if not the campus) will re-open in August and we will continue to offer the best education available in Zambia.
URGENT: Please let us know your plans
As I mentioned above, the COVID-19 situation is forcing us to plan for August in a situation with very little reliable information. Planning staff and student schedules under these circumstances is extremely difficult. If you haven’t done so already, please reach out to Natasha in Admissions (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know your family’s plans for August. Will you be in Lusaka? Will you be overseas? If you are overseas, when might you return? Are you planning to re-enroll your child(ren) at AISL? Even if you are not 100% sure, please let us know. The sooner we have this information, the better we will be able to serve everyone.
Please share your feedback on AISL Distance Learning 2.0
As you know, the team here at AISL is deeply committed to continuously improving our programs. Having transitioned very quickly to our distance learning program, we worked hard to gather feedback and adjust along the way. Your feedback was very helpful to that process.
Although we are hoping to return to face-to-face learning in August, we humbly request another round of feedback so that we can make further refinements to our distance learning program – for whenever we need to use it again. I would be grateful if you could share your reflections by clicking here. Your feedback will be very useful to us.
Check out our Virtual Awards Ceremonies
The end of every school year includes a series of ceremonies to celebrate our students. Events such as Graduation, the Academic and Sports Awards Ceremonies, and the Grade 5 Transition Ceremony are important rites of passage for our scholars. Although we could not hold this year’s ceremonies in person, our team has worked very hard to create virtual versions of these annual traditions. Please visit our Virtual Awards Ceremonies webpage and take some time to celebrate our students’ many achievements (password is same as for parent portal). I hope that you enjoy your visit to these ceremonies and that they demonstrate to you our unwavering commitment to create opportunities for our students to thrive.
As a fun side note, we have been tracking visitors to these sites. That information provides a great snapshot of just how international we are as a community. Check out the statistics we have logged:
Sports Awards Ceremony: 288 visitors from 19 countries
Senior Awards Ceremony: 255 visitors from 14 countries
Graduation: 384 visitors from 19 countries
Many thanks to Julie Baldry, Frank Louw, Claire and Tony Potts, and the rest of the team for creating such great tributes to our students’ achievements.
As the school year draws to a close, students are turning in summative assignments, teachers are giving feedback and calculating final grades, and we’re all planning to work together to reflect on the 2019-20 school year. Our teachers have planned the following all-school, grade-level, class, and Advisory closing activities.
Advisory for Friday 5 June:
Classes on Monday 8 June and Tuesday 9 June:
Closing celebrations by grade level:
Last Day of School:
Finally, after eleven weeks of Distance Learning, a format that was tweaked and refined over the past two and half months, we are very curious to hear your feedback on how the experience was for your family and child. We would like to ask each of you to complete this brief survey reflecting on our Distance Learning 2.0 program. Thank you for your time.
As always, thank you for your continued feedback and support to help us ensure that every student thrives. We appreciate the idea sharing, suggestions, and questions that help us reflect on teaching practices so that we can make sure that every student is successful. Thank you for being our partners in student learning.
Ty Smeins, Secondary Principal
Sheila Seiler, Secondary Assistant Principal
As we conclude our last full week of the school year, we wanted to share some important information to note:
Connecting through the virtual classrooms
While we wait for our physical campus to reopen, our students continue to use their classroom as 'the third teacher', albeit a virtual classroom environment. As teachers' Learning Boards continue to evolve, students have innovative ways to engage with new content, connect with peers, and lead their own inquiries through our virtual classrooms. In this new format, students click on different icons which lead them to various learning engagements that can be explored in depth at the child's own pace. Here are a few examples from our Librarian, Spanish Teacher and Performing Arts Team this past week.
Reading, responding, researching, and writing in the Primary School
It has been exciting to see so many reading and writing projects coming to completion in the last week. In reading, students have been responding to different sections in pictures, videos and in writing. For word work, students have been consolidating their understanding of unit vocabulary, sorting words for Word Study, and exploring similes. In writing, students have been completing fiction stories, creating non-fiction research books, and then responding to each others' efforts on Seesaw. Well done, Primary students for all of your hard work in building your literacy skills!
Thank you for your support and another wonderful week.
Darlene Huson, Primary Principal
Christine Kelly, Primary Assistant Principal of Teaching and Learning and PYP Coordinator
Tony Potts, Primary Assistant Principal of Systems and Innovation and Tech Integration Specialist
We're pushing full steam ahead with teaching and learning in the Secondary school as classes prepare to wrap up with summative assessments, closing talks with teachers, and celebrations by grade level. We're also working on all of our end-of-year celebrations and transitions. We're excited about the Sports Awards Virtual Ceremony (The password is the same as that of the parent portal) and here is what's coming up for our Grade 12 celebrations and transitions:
Grade 12 Celebrations and Procedures:
We would also like to celebrate the learning that has been happening during our distance learning program. Here are some great things that have been happening in our classes:
Individuals and Societies:
Grade 8 Individuals and Societies students have been learning about Renaissance thinkers. Their assignment was to post Tweets from Renaissance thought-leaders in the style of today's social media influencers. Below are some examples of their work.
This past week our Band students created videos for the Grade 4 students. In these videos, they shared their knowledge and experience regarding their instruments and being a member of the band. These videos will help the Grade 4 students choose which instrument they would like to play next year. The fourth graders will be inspired to follow in the footsteps of our incredible secondary musicians!
In Grade 6 Science class, students have been learning about the solar system. They were asked to think critically about why the Earth is able to sustain life, why other planets may or may not be able to, and how the Earth's rotation affects life on our planet. Below are examples of their work.
Language and Literature:
In DP HL Language and Literature, students learned about semiotics and applied their knowledge and understanding of symbols and signifiers to their non-literary text: the Nike Dream Crazy campaign. This week, students are thinking critically about Nike's appeal, and asking to what extent its representation of meritocracy and The American Dream is both aspirational and unethical. Here are two examples of student work.
In Grades 7-8 Design class, students have learned how to make video tutorial blogs to teach others how to make something. In this video, one of our students teaches others how to make banana and chocolate muffins.
In lieu of sharing student work this week, we thought it'd be fun to show you how one of our Math teachers, Mr. Egge, keeps student attention focused on him during Google Meets. We leave you with this moment of zen:
Please keep the communication coming.
Thank you to all the parents who have helped us through sharing feedback, the parent perspective, and your ideas and questions about how we can improve the distance learning program. Please let us know if you have any concerns or if you want to pass on any ideas.
Ty Smeins, Secondary Principal
Sheila Seiler, Secondary Assistant Principal
Thank you for your continued support of our Secondary students’ distance learning. We appreciate the constant communication and feedback from you and our students so that we can keep reflecting on and improving the distance learning program.
This week, we’d like to share some of the student feedback results and comments so that you can learn what the student population is thinking and feeling. We changed our student survey this week by adding Likert scale questions to our open-ended questions.
We respond to the students’ feedback each week to let them know what aspects of their feedback we’re taking on to improve. We also respond to clarify anything that they might be confused about.
From the feedback above, we learned that the majority of our students feel successful at distance learning, feel that they receive learning and technology support, that they understand what to do for each class, and that they are learning and improving. However, just meeting the needs of the majority isn’t good enough.
Our next steps with the feedback results each week are to reach out to individual students who expressed frustrations, worries, or concerns, to offer support. We continue to follow up with those students each week to provide them with whatever they need.
If there seems to be a trend in a grade level's responses, we contact the students in that grade level to know that we're working on solutions, then we communicate with them once we have implemented those solutions.
We also share the results with teachers and have discussed them in faculty meetings. Students know that this week, their answers will be shared with other students and with the parent community so that they and you can learn about their experiences as well.
Our students shared the following insights about what they like about distance learning and what has been challenging for them.
Self-management with distance learning
The students seem to enjoy the flexibility of scheduling and being able to choose when to complete their work. Many students reported that their self-management skills have led to their enjoyment of the distance learning program.
Students' increased autonomy over their schedules has helped them feel like they can make decisions for themselves about their assignments, timetables, and priorities. Their comments included that they liked the following:
Challenges with distance learning
However, our students also miss school, their teachers, and their fellow students. Many mentioned that seeing teachers and friends on Google Meets has been a highlight. One shared that “google meets so we can talk with our teachers” is the best part of the distance learning program. It’s challenging to complete work alone. One student wrote, “this is difficult and frustrating- I want to go back to school.”
Other students shared that the workload is tough, especially as we approach the last third of the quarter, when summative assignments will be due. One student wrote, “There’s a lot of summatives now, so it takes more than 4 hours a day.” Another wrote that it’s challenging to manage one’s own schedule the whole week and then to have all assignments due by the end of the week; “it’s hard to have a lot of stuff due all on Friday” that student wrote.
Each week 30-45 Secondary students respond to the student feedback survey. We send 1-2 reminders a week to all Grade 6-10 students. If parents would like to support the distance learning program, they can encourage their children to give us feedback each week so that we can continue to improve the distance learning program.
As always, please keep the lines of communication open. Your insights and questions help us make sure that every student thrives.
Ty Smeins, Secondary Principal
Sheila Seiler, Secondary Assistant Principal
The AISL grade 7-11 visual arts students recently took up the Getty Challenge. The Getty Museum launched a social media campaign asking people to recreate famous artworks in their homes. The response was amazing and people are still sending in their versions of beloved artworks.
This task required the students to look at historical artworks. They had to “think outside the box” to recreate their selected artwork from objects at hand and often enlist the help of family members. The results were creative and often humorous as they brought art history to life. Click through the slideshow below to view them all.
Ms. Nevers, Secondary Visual Art Teacher.
Transitions can be difficult.
Join our counselors Stephanie Sawchuk, Driekie Smith, and Julie Ann Baldry who will provide a brief overview of strategies that may make transitions easier. This live, virtual presentation is for both leaving and staying families. It will be interactive with chances to ask questions and gain clarification.
With the month of May well underway, there continues to be a lot of wonderful learning happening across all grades and subject areas with a handful more of exciting weeks still ahead of us. As always, thank you for all your support these past two months in helping your child to stay motivated, focused, inspired, reflective and organized. We appreciate all of your efforts! On with the updates from Week 8...
What did our students say?
As we have shared consistently over the past few weeks, we can improve with feedback. Thank you to all of the families who have provided suggestions, asked questions, and shared their family's challenges and successes through our feedback survey along the way. Last week, we were interested in hearing the students' perspective so we asked all of our G1-G5 students to complete a quick survey. We inquired into the workload, what they would like to have more/less of, and their experiences with Google Meets. From the 106 responses received, here is what they said...
As a result of the survey, teachers have been conscious about scaling back the workload for the remaining weeks in grades where it was mentioned. Students, overall, have found the synchronous sessions very helpful, providing opportunities to ask questions, clarify instructions, and connect with classmates. Because not all students can attend all specialists at the designated times due to different time zones, some students were not able to share if those subject's sessions were helpful to them or not. In addition to the questions above, students have asked for more time to connect with teachers. As a reminder, all teachers are available between 12:00-15:00 for students to connect with them as well as additional student check-in times and small group work with homeroom teachers throughout the week. We look forward to providing more balance for the students during the remaining weeks. Thank you to all of the students who gave us important information to reflect upon.
What is coming up...
With the end of the school year just around the corner, we are in the process of supporting our students' and families' transitions, whether to a new school, a new country or a new grade-level.
Celebrating students' work
Despite the campus being closed, our Early Years teachers have continued to seek ways to promote the love of learning for our youngest students (ages 3-5). Whether that is through sensory play, journal drawing/writing, math explorations, creative projects or science experiments, there has been something for everyone to tap into for enjoyment, inquiry, and inspiration. These are just a few of the examples shared by our Early Learning Center (ELC) students this past week.
Please keep communicating with us.
As always, we are here to support your child and your family. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or need clarification. We also encourage you to complete the tech support form for any assistance needed with your child's device and/or our distance learning platform.
Until next week,
Darlene Huson, Primary Principal
Tony Potts, Primary Assistant Principal and Tech Integration Specialist
Christine Kelly, Primary Assistant Principal and PYP Coordinator
Parents are juggling a lot right now - managing their jobs, their homes, their children, and their children-as-students. Please join one of our counselors, Driekie Smith, on Wednesday, 27 May, at 18:00 (Lusaka time) to share ideas about what's helping parents find balance while supporting their children during distance learning.
Driekie will start the workshop off by sharing the main ideas behind this Edutopia article, asking parents to respond, and then facilitating a conversation. Please join us to listen, share, and support our parent community during distance learning.
Parents can join this Google Meet by clicking on this link.
Image source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/happy-hour-goes-online-as-coronavirus-forces-everyone-inside-11584735297
The Leopard's Tale is our main medium to keep our families informed on such things as the day to day happenings on campus, after school activities, summaries of any arts and sports events, helpful resources, and important dates and reminders.
Parent Information Sessions
Here are the upcoming sessions – all parents are welcome and encouraged to attend:
Office Hours: Monday - Thursday: 08:00 - 15:00 / Friday: 08:00 - 13:00