Alexandria, VA – The Beverley Hills Church Preschool has existed for 81 years. This year, it underwent a major curriculum overhaul. The school has its roots in progressive educational philosophy and practices, and in 2020, it was not in short supply of progress.
Transitioning to a hybrid model of remote/in-person learning due to the pandemic, Beverley Hills Church Preschool has faced challenges and achieved success. Challenges have included finding cleaning supplies and providing learning, project, and art materials for families to have at home so that there are no discrepancies among the students’ abilities to participate. Other challenges were less pragmatic, such as figuring out which ages could handle an online curriculum.
The school’s hybrid model follows a class structure based on age. The oldest classes are for five- and four-year-olds who learn three days in person and one day online. The three-year-olds learn two days in person and one day online; the youngest children, about two-and-a-half, learn two days in person only, with no virtual learning for them.
“We are going with the flow; kids are adaptable,” says Bethany LaMois, office manager. The students at Beverley Hills Church Preschool are adapting beautifully to the new normal.
Using an outdoor playground and pergola on church property, the students and teachers have focused 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,” Bethany says. “We almost don’t remember what it’s like not to be outdoors…I don’t think [the kids] know any different.”
Watching the students embrace such changes has put the pandemic into perspective at the preschool. Of course, even outdoors, the Beverley Hills Church Preschool follows every protocol and safety measures, including masks worn by everyone and an outdoor bathroom sanitized between each use.
The school requires Covid-19 testing or quarantining for two weeks from parents who must travel for work. The board maintains communication and provides support for parents, assuring that their child(ren) can continue to participate in school functions. “The [school] health committee has been very involved, and the parents have helped a lot,” says Bethany.
The Beverley Hills Church Preschool is a cooperative. Each day a parent is present to supervise, learn, and engage alongside teachers and students. “We rely on our community to keep the kids involved,” says Bethany.
Each year the school presents a common project theme for the older students. Last year the four-year-olds created skeletons out of sticks. This year, students are learning principles of paleontology, chipping away at ice blocks in their kitchens.
“Remote learning doesn’t have to be boring,” Bethany says. “It takes patience, but you must communicate with your colleagues. None of us has ever done this before.
“It’s stressful moving to a new environment,” she adds. “Now that we’ve put this in action, [the teachers] love it!”
Bethan says that Beverley Hills Church Preschool has allowed her to interact with the students in a new way and has even made her a better parent. With such community orientation, she has reevaluated her priorities and gained a new appreciation for children’s resilience. She reminds us not to be afraid to look to those younger than us for encouragement.