With the district conducting class online in a bid to limit the spread of COVID-19, some teachers at Pullman High School are having to think outside of the box to bring hands-on instruction into students’ homes.
Family and consumer sciences teacher Jill Bickelhaupt said for one thing, the students don’t have the benefit of in-school facilities and supplies. Bickelhaupt, who teaches three classes, including textiles and design and culinary arts, said she usually has ingredients, cooking supplies and sewing equipment on-hand in her classroom.
With all of her classes online, she said she had to put together supply kits for students to pick up, packed with sewing materials or pre-measured ingredients for required, at-home cooking “labs” done about once a week.
In a recent lab, Bickelhaupt had her students make calzones. Other cooking projects include dutch babies, cajun shrimp and sausage fettuccine alfredo.
“One of my favorite things about teaching the foods classes is that they get hands-on experience and get to actually work with the materials and do things,” Bickelhaupt said “I really wanted to try and incorporate that, even with the distance learning.”
High school senior Emily Libey, who is taking two of Bickelhaupt’s classes, said it has been a welcome opportunity to learn new hands-on skills while stuck at home.
“A lot of people are just trying to find new things to do and new things to apply themselves to, and I think that cooking is definitely one of them and sewing can be one of them, too,” Libey said.
Art teacher Rob McPherson, who teaches multiple classes like painting and ceramics, said he, too, had to compile and send supplies home with students — everything from tubes of acrylic paint to six-pound blocks of clay.
Both teachers said they have had to rethink the mechanics of how they teach their classes with this new online format. Bickelhaupt said she sometimes teaches live online classes where students will work during the allotted time and occasionally hold their work up to the camera but she also posts instructional videos for their cooking labs as well. She said this is advantageous because students can follow along and rewind or fast forward at their convenience.
McPherson said he conducts class with the use of two cameras — one focused on him, the other directed toward his sketchpad or project for demonstrational purposes. He said one silver lining to the pandemic and school shutdowns is it has accelerated our adoption of in-classroom technology and remote teaching techniques made possible through online conferencing tools.
“If and when we’re back to normal, I have even more resources that I hadn’t thought of and I didn’t really need to think of because (the students) were right in front of me,” McPherson said. “I think that it could really enhance learning in the future.”
McPherson said students have already produced some compelling art projects — many referencing the pandemic and shutdowns. He said one memorable submission from freshman Annie Ficklin for an “artist baseball card” project mentioned playing the Nintendo Switch game, Animal Crossing, which saw a surge in popularity during state-imposed shelter-in-place orders.
Ficklin said it’s been more challenging for her to excel in her studies while attending class from home and is looking forward to a time when she can return to school facilities.
Teachers and administrators in the district unilaterally echoed this desire.
“It’s tough not having the kids in the classroom — I always say that my favorite part of teaching is the actual teaching part,” Bickelhaupt said. “All the planning, all the grading that stuff is not so great, but that part where you get to be with the kids is just the absolute best and part of this feels like that’s been taken away a little bit.”
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to email@example.com.