Extracurricular Lessons Go Virtual, Bring Challenges and Benefits
Rince Nua Irish Dance
The switch to virtual learning has Irish dance instructor Erin Clooney nostalgic for the farm she grew up in.
“I feel like I’m going back to those days and I remember how I felt. My learning with Irish dance was pretty much by video,” Clooney said. “I would go for a full day of training and practice with everything I recorded that day as a kid.”
In 2012, Clooney opened Rince Nua Irish Dance studio in Maple Grove.
Following Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order, Rince Nua Irish Dance participants had to cancel their St. Patrick’s Day recital.
Clooney was forced to restructure the curriculum into online classes. The instructor spent hours prerecording steps, beats and cuts. Students are required to learn these moves prior to Zoom videoconference meetings, which are held twice a week.
“During the month of April, because I’ve been needing to spend all this time myself recording all the footage I just chose not to offer classes for children beginners and not offer classes for 2 to 5 year olds,” said Clooney.
Dancers experienced challenges due to technology and tight spacing. Clooney said the biggest challenge was probably pets getting in the way at home.
Despite these hurdles, Clooney says the online courses were beneficial.
“The kids know the entire material of the month already. It’s amazing because some of the kids are so excited for these videos and the repetition of watching the video over and over again,” Clooney said. “For me as a teacher, it’s really fun to see because we’re not spending as much time in class. We’re actually living and learning more.”
Escalate Dance and Theatre Studio
Escalate Dance and Theatre Studio in Osseo is also experiencing the same challenges.
Ann Marie Omeish, the owner of the performing arts studio said there are between 250 and 300 students enrolled. Those students are split among 13 teachers.
“We’re working around the clock more than we ever had because of all the things we didn’t know. It’s been challenging,” Omeish said.
The studio is suppose to have a recital at the end of May but that got canceled due to the pandemic.
“It’s hard not knowing how long this is going to be until we get to be in the studio. Am I even able to keep my studio open?” Omeish questioned.
Omeish said some families have lost jobs and aren’t able to afford classes, however Omeish offered to allow those students to keep participating.
“I’m just like ‘keep doing it, don’t worry. I’ll take care of it right now, just focus on getting your job back,'” Omeish said.
Omeish said the pandemic has brought the teachers closer now that they are virtually meeting every other day.
“I have wonderful teachers that are working so hard and really want to help the students,” said Omeish. “There really are some wonderful things that are going to come out of it because I feel like people are really trying to help each other out for the most part.”
Spark School of Music
Along with dance and performing arts, music teachers face their own unexpected challenges.
Nicholas Tucker, president and founder of Spark School of Music in Osseo, jokingly said he is now calling himself tech support.
“We’ve seen a drop among 4 and 5 year old kids. But later elementary, middle school and high school kids are really thriving right now in this setting,” Tucker told CCX News.
Tucker said almost all classes are one-on-one private lessons so learning virtually hasn’t been much of a challenge. However, virtual group classes are more of a lecture-style format. Tucker said kids will get a chance at the beginning and end of class to interact, but during class itself students are muted.
Tucker added that the school is coming up with creative ways to engage students and their families. Spark School of Music is offering free classes Tuesday at 5 p.m. More information can be found on their Facebook.
“We’re creating this opportunity called the ‘Post Quarantine Rock Band.’ Kids will learn songs separately right now while we’re in quarantine. After we come back, we’re going to have big rehearsal day where they’ll learn how to play all together,” said Tucker.
Currently there are about 240 students enrolled at the Osseo school.
“All our teachers have pretty amazing in-home studios. So, I have seen some teachers using multiple camera angles where there’s a camera dedicated to seeing their hands. Another camera is set up to see their face. They’re using high quality recording devices at the same time,” Tucker explained.
After-school Spanish teachers agree that prerecorded videos tend to have a positive impact on students.
“There’s the action to pause and go back and hear the vocabulary again. Language is about repetition. So a one hour after school class would be very interactive, live and offers different benefits, but online learning allows parents and families to not only participate together but also to go at their pace,” explained Elizabeth Martinez, senior area bilingual manager for Futura Language Professionals.
Futura Language Professionals teach students mainly between preschool and elementary age.
Martinez said Futura works with 20 school districts across Minnesota including Osseo Area Schools.
Martinez further explained that the most challenging part about the quick turnaround from in-class to virtual learning was coordinating with all the schools and families. She said they had to make materials accessible quickly but not jeopardize the quality.
“We have prerecorded videos of teachers instructing the class just as if they were in a classroom. All our lesson plans are pre-written,” said Martinez.
Families have a parent portal where they can access the videos. Families receive email through the community education or the site directly.
“I admire very much families and students who are willing to, in a time of uncertainty, still recognize that we are still connected and in short run or long term, distance is going to continue to benefit them in so many different ways,” Martinez said. “It’s fascinating the interest that we continue to have in the growth in foreign language learning, not only in Spanish but the interconnections that we are a part of.