ALEXANDRIA, VA—The Beverly Hills Church Preschool has been around for 81 years, and this year, it underwent a major curriculum overhaul. The school has its roots in “progressive educational philosophy and practices,” and during 2020, it was not in short supply of progress.
Transitioning to a hybrid model of remote learning due to the pandemic, Beverly Hills Church Preschool has faced challenges and found triumphs. Some challenges have included practical ones like finding cleaning supplies and providing materials for families to have at home. Other challenges require a little more grace, like figuring out which ages can handle an online curriculum.
How Does Their Hybrid Work?
Beverly Hills Church Preschool’s hybrid model follows a class structure based on age. The older class learns in person three days a week and remotely for one day. The younger class learns in person two days a week and remotely for one day. The two-and-a-half-year-old class learns two days a week in person only.
“We are going with the flow,” says Bethany LaMois, office manager at Beverly Hills Church Preschool. “Kids are really adaptable.” The kids at Beverly Hills Church Preschool are adapting beautifully to this new normal.
Utilizing the outdoor playground and pergola on the property, the students and teachers have been thinking outside the classroom, working closely with their natural environment. “Sometimes we set up easels with Elmer’s glue and food dye to let the kids create art from nature,” explains Bethany.
Working with nature allows one to pause and appreciate what is around them. When it seems like reality has been stripped of normalcy, just look at the world outside and see the beauty that grows despite the chaos.
Bethany continues, “We almost don’t remember what it’s like to not be outdoors… I don’t think [the kids] know any different.” Watching these kids embrace such drastic changes has put the pandemic into perspective for Bethany and everyone involved at the preschool.
Sanitation Plus Community
Of course, even outdoors, the Beverly Hills Church Preschool knows to follow every protocol and safety measure: they have an outdoor bathroom, which they sanitize between each use; everyone wears masks (and the teachers are working on ways to help the kids adjust to them); the school makes accommodations for parents that have to travel for work, implementing Covid-19 testing, health screening, and quarantine measures. “The health committee has been very involved and the parents have helped a lot,” says Bethany.
It takes a village to raise a child, and the Beverly Hills Church Preschool understands this. As a co-operative school, there is a co-op parent there every day supervising, learning, and engaging alongside the teachers and students. “We rely on the community,” states Bethany.
“We need to keep the community and the kids engaged,” she says. To do this, each year the school presents a common theme. Last year the 4-year class created skeletons out of sticks. This year, the students are practicing the science of paleontology, chipping away at ice blocks in their kitchens.
“Remote learning doesn’t have to be boring,” Bethany reminds us. “It takes patience, but communicate with your colleagues. None of us have ever done this before.”
Everyone in the world today is operating via trial-by-error and experiencing trepidations just as anyone else. Bethany is right, none of us have ever done this before, and it is scary, but trying is the only way you will learn. “It’s stressful moving to a new environment,” says Bethany. “Now that we’ve put this in action, [the teachers] love it!” Change is hard, and sometimes it is harder for adults than for kids. Bethany reminds us not to be afraid to look to those younger than us for encouragement.
“Being involved with Beverly Hills Church Preschool has made me a better parent,” says Bethany. It has allowed her to interact with the kids in a new way. “I am excited to see how well the kids are handling the hybrid model.” With such community orientation, Bethany has been able to reevaluate her priorities during these uncertain times, and has found a new appreciation for the resilience of children.