Impact Learning: Ricks

Strong Leadership and Community Continues in Digital Space at Ricks

With COVID-19 shutting down schools and pushing instruction to the virtual classroom, many parents at the Ricks Center for Gifted Children (Ricks) – a model pre-K through eighth grade school located on the University of Denver (DU) campus – found themselves with new multitasking challenges.

As an alum of the Morgridge College of Education’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program, Craig Harrer, director of Ricks, was perfectly positioned to guide parents, students and staff in tailoring individualized education to meet student needs while moving to a virtual learning environment.

At the onset of the pandemic, Harrer shared tips on how parents could talk to their children about the virus, help their children adapt to a virtual classroom and assignments, and incorporate social engagement virtually.

“We’ve seen success with allowing for some social engagement in our Zoom meetings at lunch, enabling students to have a lunchtime where they chat with their friends,” he said. “For younger students, a Zoom snack time is fun. It’s also helpful when teachers can divide students up into work groups so that they can be more focused with just a few students.”

“I would also encourage short Zoom or FaceTime sessions with family, classmates and teachers. For the youngest students, teacher interaction seems to be the most powerful tool for their social and virtual engagement.”

One form of social engagement involved Ricks’ teachers organizing drive-through parades to continue the tradition of celebrating students’ birthdays. The drive-through birthdays allowed Ricks families, staff and students a creative way to celebrate and served as an example of the resiliency and dedication of the Ricks community.

To quote one of the Ricks kindergarten teachers, “Birthday parades have become such a special and heartfelt tradition – I think it lifts everyone’s spirits!”

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