Nurturing relationships is a central element in the Early Education Center (EEC), and this school year, faculty members piloted some creative ways to help distance learning students meaningfully connect with their friends on campus.

“We love our distance learners and want them to feel included in the classroom setting,” said EEC faculty member Amy Kuenzel. “At circle time each day, we rub our hearts and say the names of any classmates not with us to send them good thoughts. We display their photographs and include their answers on any charts in the classroom and on our display board so that their names are written everywhere, just like their classmates’ names. Many of our children can even identify our distance learners’ names. We want each child to be welcomed back as a familiar face when they return to campus.”

Technology helps in maintaining these important connections. “We held a circle time via Zoom with our distance learners and allowed our in-person students to interact with them on the computer,” explained EEC faculty member Batey Self. “The distance learners were able to feel like a part of the classroom, and our in-person students enjoyed sharing activities with them.”

In addition to talking via video chat, students have discovered an old-fashioned way to communicate. “We also send mail to our distance learners!” smiled Self. “We send them notes or drawings from their classmates, materials for activities we are doing in the classroom, and even little surprises and stickers to make them feel special. They also send mail to our classroom, and our in-person students love hearing from their distance learning friends.” Together, they are bridging the distance and proving friendship knows no bounds.