To the Editor:
In trying to open schools during the pandemic by poorly replicating our old system, we are missing the opportunity to rethink teaching and learning. The Vineyard is rich in many resources that would support safe learning. We have lots of fresh air, open spaces, large enclosed spaces, and resourceful teachers. Sitting at a desk in a classroom is not the only way to learn. In fact, it probably isn’t the best way for most students. Exploring, playing, experimenting, thinking, collaborating, arguing, problem solving, and more can be carried out in a variety of settings.
In this strange year, let’s experiment, and use the whole Island as our laboratory. Most in-person learning can happen outside. From September to December, there are very few days when group activities can’t happen outdoors. Schools and families would need to invest in extra coats, clothes, mittens, boots, and rain gear. When students are with their teachers, learning would be exploratory, project- and team-based. On inclement days, students would be doing reading, writing, and research (solo activities) at home, or spread out into community indoor spaces (the Boys and Girls Club, the Chilmark Community Center, the Ag Hall, the Vineyard Museum, the Tabernacle, the Y). In January and February students would have longer projects and shorter outdoor times. From March to June, they can head back outside.
We have an opportunity to do something new and preserve the huge benefit of students having meaningful contact with teachers.