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Safe and Substantial Specials at McKenna

Creativity is the key, McKenna Elementary School’s special area teachers say, to providing students with meaningful learning experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the health and safety protocols in the district, elementary art, library and music teachers visit each classroom, instead of having the students come to them. Physical education activities have also been modified to allow for social distancing.

Music teacher Clarence Kelly provides students with their own sets of instruments, such as egg shakers and rhythm sticks, so they can keep the beat to different musical selections while avoiding sharing of equipment. For third graders, who are learning the recorder, he shows them the finger positions and movements in school, but they actually play their instruments at home.

Library media specialist Ellen Rosenzweig said that the core topics of her program continue, such as literary elements and research skills. Recently, she taught third graders about nonfiction text features using a digital book on Brazil. Students learned how captions describe photographs or illustrations, and then wrote their own captions for a photo of two bears in a tree.   

In art, one tradition that has continued is each student draws a self-portrait every year. Teacher Ellen Cervone saves these and gives them to students when the leave McKenna, to see their progression as artists from kindergarten to fifth grade. She also continues to reinforce artistic skills and concepts. First graders made patterning pieces based on “Elmer the Elephant” and third graders studied the color wheel by making rainbow forests using watercolor crayons.

Physical education classes, which were held outside as much as possible prior to the blizzard, focus on personal health and fitness. Teachers Karen Flynn and Kieran O’Brien lead students in different stretches and exercises while ensuring that they maintain a safe distance from each other.