Shrewsbury elementary teacher helps kids stay connected- virtually – with nature

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Gardens at the Beal School

By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Writer Cool

Shrewsbury – If local school children can’t go to their classes because of the pandemic, then Kara Frankian, a Floral Street Elementary School teacher, will bring their school to them. Specifically, she is doing so through the  “Distance Learning” science lessons she is teaching to first graders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frankian put together a live science lesson and went to each elementary school campus in town to take photos of what each school looked like and the seasonal changes that were happening. This helped the students feel like they were back at their home schools while learning about science at the same time.

In late April, Frankian began a unit about seasonal changes and what is causing them. Her photos from the elementary schools helped illustrate these lessons.

At the elementary level district administrators shifted to a model to streamline the curriculum across the district so each elementary student had the same lessons.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jane Lizotte explained that principals and teachers have organized lessons for students that are consistent across the town. All kindergarten through fourth grade students receives the same lessons according to their grade level.

“No matter whether you are at Spring Street, Coolidge, Floral or Paton, the lessons and activities are consistent,” Lizotte said. “Kara’s is one of so many examples of the time and effort that teachers are putting in despite the fact that they have full family responsibilities.”

“It’s really an approach I would take with my own students,” Frankian said. “At Floral, every single Friday rain or shine we go outside and look for change over time. We are looking to compare different organisms and we are looking to find how different organisms grow.”

Frankian has been teaching at Floral Street School since the school opened. She recalled that she established the Floral Nature Trail with the encouragement of Ellen Smith who was the school’s first principal and Paul Maroney who was the “Clerk of the Works” in charge of the construction site as Floral was being built.

“My whole point is the importance of getting kids invested in nature,” Frankian said. “All the research says no matter what we do in terms of the message we send, the single most important thing that we can do at this age group – early childhood- is to get them interested in nature.”

“To have them hands on and in the dirt and in the doing… you see so much more when they are being industrious,” she added.

By exploring nature one can see so many changes that are happening outside.  The changes in the amount of heat and light that the sun provides are an important part of the reason why these changes are happening.

Other units included in the curriculum are a study on mealworms and Earth Day. Frankian is passionate about the planet and wants to teach her students that making good choices matters.

She noted that there is a real opportunity here in the way we teach our kids but she also recognized that students are not all in the same space as their lives have been disrupted. She hopes that her lessons offer a bit of normalcy in troubling times.

photos/Kara Frankian

The boardwalk at the Paton School
The Floral School Nature Trail