Bay School fourth grade student Claire Danielson takes a food break with other students in teacher Kristy Cunnane's split third/fourth grade class last week. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO JENNIFER OSBORN

Bay School heads outdoors to deal with the pandemic

BLUE HILL While many schools have been doing a mix of in-school and remote learning during the pandemic, class has been in session on the Bay School campus since the first day of school last September. 

Instruction for the school’s 83 students has been a mix of inside and outside — mainly outside, according to Headmaster Marcia Diamond. The school owns a 70-acre parcel off South Street, which has trails and gardens in addition to the school buildings.

Diamond credits the families of students for getting creative with how to stay in school while complying with the state’s social distancing mandates. 

Outdoor classrooms were built. Two new fire pits were installed to accompany four existing pits, which were used most days for children to gather around and warm themselves. The school already had one outdoor classroom, outfitted with a wood burning oven that was built by seventh- and eighth-grade students two years ago.

One family’s grandparents sent a large, unused hoop house to serve as another outdoor classroom and three more outdoor classrooms were created.

Two of those were built on the backside of the main school building. 

Meanwhile, three families built 75 desks for outside use over the course of a few days. 

Rain gear was purchased for all the students. 

And now it is May. The children and staff are doing well. There haven’t been any cases of the virus nor has there been any quarantining due to possible virus exposure at school. 

“We’ve had tremendous cooperation from parents,” Diamond said. Parents who have travelled have quarantined and been tested before returning their children to school.

The children themselves said they like doing school outside. 

Diamond said the mild fall and winter weather did make outdoor education easier.

To stay true to the Waldorf philosophy, which focuses on fitting instruction to child development, having students attend class online wouldn’t work for the Bay School.

“We don’t use screens here except for the older grades (seventh and eighth),” Diamond said.

Children from first grade through eighth learn from teachers and work in “main lesson books,” usually large sketch pads to draw and write what they have learned.

Instruction includes the Old Testament, Norse and Greek mythologies, the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, metrics and poetry.

Eschenbach’s “Parcival” and Goethe’s “Faust.” Mineralogy, physics, nutrition, wood carving, geography and local history, fairytales, fables and legends are also included in the curriculum.

Diamond said singing is a big part of Waldorf education but because of the state mandate that people must be 14 feet apart when singing, the school purchased ukuleles for all the students to use in place of singing this year.

While most of the grade school students had a mix of outdoor and indoor instruction this year, the early childhood program of 3- to 5-year-olds have spent their days outdoors almost exclusively; that’s 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

And when it’s warm enough for outside nap time, they do so under a forest canopy in hammocks the school purchased.

“In previous years, our early childhood program had long stretches outside and a Forest Friday program where they were outside all morning each week,” Diamond said. “This year they moved outside almost exclusively for health reasons. Little ones have more difficulty with social distancing, so giving them more space to play in the fresh air proved beneficial to them all. For both the fall and now the spring, guidelines allow them to be unmasked outside, which makes such a difference socially and especially with those whose language skills are still developing.”

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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