Drive Through Food Pantry – July 29

East Greenbush Central School District families are invited to pickup free boxes of food at a Drive Through Food Pantry on Thursday, July 29 at 9:30 a.m. in front of George Martin Electric at 164 Columbia Turnpike, Rensselaer, NY. If you are driving, stay in your car. If you are walking, please practice social distancing. Masks are optional for fully vaccinated patrons. Distribution will start at 9:30 a.m. and the event will be fully concluded by noon.

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The following story is the second in a three-part series about Teaching Art During a Pandemic and it focuses on elementary school art instruction.

Teaching Art during a Pandemic, and with a hybrid model, has been both challenging and rewarding. It has forced teachers to modify plans and projects and re-think how the art rooms would function under CDC guidelines. Being the creative problem-solvers that ALL teachers are, the Art Department has persevered and students have flourished.

Genet art students

Genet students show their modern day Mona Lisa art works.

Elementary Schools

Teaching art during the pandemic has certainly been a challenge requiring creativity and flexibility while learning to use and adapt to new technology and equipment. Instead of a regular Monday through Friday schedule, students are on a rotating color schedule in all elementary schools. Hybrid students come to classes on an alternating A/B schedule where half of the class is working in person with the art teacher and the other half is assigned work to complete at home. Wednesday used to be a full day of virtual live art classes, but now the A/B hybrid students have a separate rotation on that day.

Bell Top and DPS Art Teacher MaryKay Ostwald teaches 27 elementary art classes all on separate Google pages to approximately 500 students. She has five full remote classes which are interspersed throughout the week. With the return of some special education and kindergarten students, she has been moved to a different classroom to deliver art lessons to some classes remotely and/or in their home classroom. Some students attend both A and B sessions while others in their class come during A or B days, so she needs to be aware of how to adjust lessons to accommodate all of the students.

Safety Protocols

Students and teachers have to be more patient this school year. There is no sharing of supplies, so students carry a case or bag with their somewhat limited art supplies since some mediums cannot be used safely this year. There are no group murals or hands-on collaborative projects. The desks and chairs are separated and have to be cleaned with disinfectant wipes between classes.

Students are assigned specific desks and chairs so contact tracing can be done if needed. Activities that require students to walk to different parts of the room are not practiced. The teacher is the only one who walks around the room to deliver paper and other supplies.

Virtual Art Instruction

Mrs. Ostwald’s full remote students come from every elementary school in the district. She must be aware of what supplies these students have, accept spontaneous changes, and deliver supplies to homes when needed.

“Seeing a student’s face in front of me on a Google Meet is not always a given,” she said. “And it is much more difficult to find out the reason for absence when they are remote.”

Hybrid students start their artworks in school and because of our guidelines, they are not bringing their finished artworks back to school. Instead, all student’s post them on their Google Art class page attached to the assignment. 

“I return a comment online to each student who sends in a photograph,” said Mrs. Ostwald. “When we meet in school, I share their artworks with the classes on the Promethean Board which was new to the Art room until just before the pandemic.”

Remote art student working from home

Adapting to New Instructional Technology

Mrs. Ostwald is utilizing a document camera to demonstrate what she is drawing rather than an easel, and a webcam to communicate with students via Google Meets.

“There are more emails to and from parents and students than ever before,” she said. “I’ve learned to add my Bitmoji character, add links, present information on Google Meets, and to think quickly on what works best because changes come at every turn. There is a constant shuffle of students from remote to hybrid. Still, we create personal art and often it provides the perfect outlet and reason to prioritize self-care for all!”