Goshen students learn from home on snow day


It's a snow day kids in Goshen don't have to make up. Bethany Christian Schools did something different on Wednesday. They closed school, but kids still had class in a virtual classroom.

It was the schools' very first "virtual learning day." Under guidelines set by the Indiana Department of Education, it's just like any other school day.

The snow and ice made for a dangerous commute Wednesday morning so much so that Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen told kids to stay home.

But that doesn't mean they got the day off.

"I've been doing social studies, science, language arts, right now I'm doing art," said Madison Swartzendruber, an eighth grader. For

Swartzendruber and about 160 other students, it's "virtual learning day."

"It's a lot better than going to school in the middle June," she said.

Instead of making up a snow day at the end of the year, the school chose to hold classes online Wednesday. It has already given each student his or her own iPad or MacBook Air. And that's what kids are using to do their homework assignments, participate in online discussion forums and communicate with teachers.

"The teachers are all required to be available between nine and three to answer questions to help facilitate dialogue so it's like being in the classroom with them as opposed to just saying here's an assignment, work on it and giving them busy work," said Calvin Swartzendruber.

Calvin is Madison's dad and he teaches chemistry and physics at Bethany Christian.

"This is a simple machines lab so they have a compound pully system, investigating mechanical advantage and they would have done this in the lab today had we been there but there's a nice simulation that's online that gives good data so this will allow us to go on seamlessly as if we were actually at school today," Calvin said.

He admits a virtual lab isn't as good as the real thing, but there are some perks to virtual learning.

"The online discussions have been very good and they actually get more participation with the students so some of the students who are quite and don't necessarily speak up in class," Calvin said.

And it's not like kids can slack off. They're required to e-mail pictures of their work to prove they've completed their assignments. They have until midnight to turn everything in."

"It's not midnight yet so I anticipate some procrastinator but that happens on regular days," Calvin said.

Teachers were prepared for the virtual learning day. They had a plan in place in case the weather prevented kids from going to school. It remains to be seen if the school will do this for every snow day, but it's certainly an option.

Kids without Internet have extra time to do their homework as long as their parents sign a letter stating that there is in fact no Internet at home.

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