Students in Ms. Campbell's math class

Mind, body, and spirit during COVID-19

Mind, body, and spirit—we are working awfully hard on all three during the COVID-19 crisis, because each is important to the health and well-being of young people. Doing school at Colorado Academy Middle School would be a lot easier if we only needed to focus on supporting the development of the adolescent brain, but of course, that would be short changing the long-term health of our students. Instead, even while quarantined, it is important that we help young people grow in all three areas—mind, body and spirit.

The mind

I hope that it is apparent that we are dashing ahead in helping kids further develop their abilities to problem solve, collaborate virtually, communicate, and think critically. In surprising ways, the crisis has forced teachers to concentrate on the essentials, those skills we believe will advantage kids most in the long term. As I chat with teachers, a consistent refrain is that “we are doing school”—kids are getting instruction, practice, assessment, and feedback in what we believe matters most. This is happening in math, English, science, social studies, and world language. It’s also important to note that this is also happening in each of the arts taught at CA.

Do we wish we were together on campus? Of course. But the trick is to do via Zoom almost everything academically that we would be doing in a bricks-and-mortar classroom.

The body

As Coach Draz notes, “The kids are doing a great job of staying active. Even while quarantined, they have logged over 70,000 minutes of “movement” in all sorts of different shapes and forms. Kids are running, jumping, doing calisthenics, stretching, dancing, doing sport-specific exercises, drills, and so much more.” This is important work. Kids need to move.

By the nature of a Zoom classroom, kids are spending more time than we would like sitting in front of a screen. Ensuring that every child has 30 minutes (we hope more!) of body movement each day is important to physical and to mental health. I have been impressed by the creativity of our P.E. team’s assignments and the enthusiastic response of our kids. Many students have even documented their activity regimen by sending in an “action video.”

The spirit

It would be easy for young people to be glum. It is such a social time in their lives, and we are asking them to social distance and shelter in place. Talk about a contradiction between necessity and desire! My hope, though, is that students are enjoying the chance to “see” friends virtually at school, as well as using social media appropriately to stay connected during free time. This is important work for adolescents. Forming friendships and learning from one another is a formative aspect of this age and stage. While there need to be limits on screen time, I am hoping that connections between students are flourishing even from afar. I have heard from many students that being quarantined has had the unexpected advantage of making it easier to connect with cousins, camp friends, and family who live in other states.

I also hope that the gift of time the pandemic is giving young people leads to exploration. So often kids live such busy, busy lives. They often run from school to practice, to lessons, to homework, and then repeat it all again the next day. Perhaps now is the opportune time to feed the spirit by trying something new, by deepening a relationship, or by increasing the volume of daily pleasure reading.

Learning the ukulele

On my end, after successfully avoiding learning to play a musical instrument since an unfortunate encounter with a piano at age nine, I have purchased a ukulele (yes, a ukulele!) and am taking a lesson a day online. The Tinsman clan is not particularly musical (to put it mildly), but this seems like the perfect time to give it a go. At this point, no one in my family can recognize the songs I am strumming, but that really isn’t the point is it? I am feeding my spirit during a challenging time. I hope each of you, too, are finding ways to do the same.

The long and short is that, whether we are at school or home, we must carefully cultivate what is best in ourselves and each other. As a school, we will continue to do our best to do just that.