District launches alternative learning for snow days

District launches alternative learning for snow days

With temperatures plunging into bitter cold and school closed for two days, Butler School District 53 (Oak Brook, IL) initiated a groundbreaking alternative learning day for both teachers and students. Teachers and students will work remotely Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 on a variety of activities and projects. 

“While this is a professional risk, we believe in pushing ourselves to provide increasing opportunities for students, especially ones that create ownership for their learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Heidi Wennstrom. “Students and faculty success is achieved when we expect innovation every day; and our organization is all about moving from leading to succeeding.”

A change in the Illinois school code allows schools to count remote learning as an attendance day.

Teachers jumped right in creating unique projects and activities that involve communication, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration, said Brook Forest Principal Dr. Chad Prosen.

Dr. Wennstrom “challenged teachers to create learning tasks that elevate students’ thinking and create opportunities for a meaningful, joyful day of learning." 

The school sent home information to parents on the projects and activities, which students can access through Seesaw, Google Classroom and others. For instance, in 7th grade math, students are asked to create and record a video about a two-step algebraic equation, then debate the answer with a fellow student. In kindergarten Language Arts, students could find a family picture and write a story about that day. And, in 5th grade social studies, students could design a new O’Hare airport terminal.

Students were given an array of choice on the activities, all of which can be done independently, including some online and some offline, said Prosen. “What we tried to create was meaningful learning that is flexible for students and families,” he noted. “Our students and teachers are excited about this and we anticipate seeing some wonderful projects.”

Similarly, it will be a day of learning for teachers. Some will take online courses, others are planning curriculum via Google hangouts with colleagues and others are designing assessments. Administrators, likewise, are planning curricular development via Google hangouts.

To follow up, the District will survey parents, students and teachers about the experience. “As a data driven organization we will reflect on this process and continue to refine the alternative learning experience,” noted Wennstrom. “We believe that there is power in providing opportunities for voice and choice in the learning process for both adults and students,” she said.