post sourced with permission from the EcoSistema news page
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools, businesses, and community centers to shut down throughout Elkhart County, ECoSistema teachers had to find some creative ways to continue offering programming for students. A solution was reached with the launch of ECoSistema virtual programming for students at Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County!
During the week of March 23, Lead Teaching Artist Kent Dutchersmith took the lead on designing and implementing ECoSistema virtual programming, with support from Coordinator Hillary Harder. Below is a summary of what it took to transform ECoSistema into an online learning space!
Building and planning for online ECoSistema. This included organizing music and putting together binders for each student, creating forms like the Instrument Care Contract, the How to Practice at Home guide, a practice log, and a video e-learning consent form. Hillary translated all these documents into Spanish as well.
Delivery of instruments and supplies to students' homes. This meant contacting every individual parent, setting up home visit times, verifying addresses, and plotting out a route to complete the visits around town. This took two days and Kent he put 40 miles on his car the first day and 20 the second! At each home visit, Kent stood outside and talked with the parents through the door, explaining the procedures and paperwork to them, and collecting their signatures. Then he delivered the student's instrument, music stand, and music binder. He kept careful records of who has what supplies.
Setting up and conducting virtual lessons. This involved contacting every parent to schedule their child's lesson and verifying all parents' email addresses and whether they have internet access (everyone does!). When it comes time to actually teach the lessons, Kent provided support with troubleshooting any technology issues, talking parents through Zoom on the phone and trying other options until they found a medium that worked! This also involved coaching students through aspects of playing their instrument at home, whether making sure a cellist is sitting in a chair and not on their bed or guiding students to keep their instrument in a safe place in their house.
Positive opportunity to connect with students one-on-one. Students who are shy in a group setting have been thriving with private lessons - one student, in particular, was clearly practicing every day and was just flying through the book and loving every minute! Video lessons with elementary students also necessitate parent involvement in setting up the technology, and Kent reflected that it's been really cool to see each parent working with their student to set this up, showing their level of dedication and investment in helping their child's music education continue during this time. Video lessons are like a window into the students' home lives, which is often very telling and helpful as an educator to continue getting to know students on a deep level.
Instrument troubleshooting. Kent has made several visits back to homes to tune instruments from his car and even exchange instruments, going to the Boys & Girls Club to swap a hopelessly out-of-tune instrument for another that will hold its tune better. He even successfully coached a student and parent through tuning the instrument via video!
It has been such a joy to see the number of students that are taking this seriously and practicing at home! Even from the first week of video lessons, this has been incredibly successful. Within the first three weeks, Kent made 15 home visits, delivered 12 instruments, and taught 16 lessons.
Overall, Kent and Hillary both found themselves reflecting on the positive impact and importance of virtual music programming at a time like this: they have already seen evidence that it is helping create a space of resilience, consistency, structure, and joy in a very turbulent time in kids' lives.