Johnston County teachers go on-location to make remote learning fun

WENDELL, N.C. (WTVD) -- On Monday, Archer Lodge Middle School eighth-grade science teachers Alicia Cyrus, Michael Melchiorre, Shane Nettles and Sue Thompson took their classes from Wendell to the North Carolina coast, virtually.

The teachers combined their students into one Google Meets class and took turns teaching from different locations along the coast. They repeated this for another class Monday.

"We were just looking for ways to make it different than what we usually do," Cyrus said. "We have our same material that we always teach but since we are missing out on that in-person connection with the kids, we were looking at what can we do."
It's unclear when middle-school students will go back to in-person instruction at Johnston County Public Schools so the teachers are making virtual learning fun for students.

"Sometimes life can be difficult and this is kind of a life lesson for these kids," Nettles said. "Everyone's having a tough time right now. I think, ideally, we would be in school. But we were sitting around planning, and we just said what can we do. Let's focus on the positive instead of the negative."

Melchiorre added: "We're not thinking about it's bad. We're thinking about what could we do that's good. We're trying to make the best out of it."

Melchiorre taught from Kure Beach.

"About the waves and the currents in the ocean and, specifically, the inter-tidal zone," he said.

This isn't their first time going on-location for classes. They went to the Neuse River greenway, with their students experiencing it virtually.

"Just pointing out as much as we could because we were learning about river basins," Thompson said.

Thompson showed students the marine life at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher on Monday and gave them a virtual tour of the aquarium.

Cyrus and Nettles pointed out native plants and marshland at Carolina Beach State Park.

The students seemed to enjoy it.

"We're out having a good time," Cyrus said, and she added that students get engaged in the topic. "We're excited about what we're looking at."

Nettles got good feedback from students, too.

"It says best class, if you agree, type e and then e, e, e, e, so they're all agreeing," Nettles said, smiling, after the class as he read students' comments on his phone.

The teachers are hoping to do more of these on-location classes until they can get back to their students for in-person instruction. Their next on-location class will likely be about water quality.

"I think we're going to go to a water treatment plant and actually walk them through and let them see how it's really done," Melchiorre said.

The teacher said the innovative teaching method is helping them all make the best of it during the pandemic.

"We miss our students live," Thompson said. "Can't wait to see you live but in the meantime, hang in there with us online and we'll do our best to teach you."

The teachers said their principal has been supportive of their ideas and they encourage other teachers to try new things to make virtual learning more interactive for students.

"Think outside the box," Nettles said. "It takes hard work but it's very rewarding in the end and it's not just rewarding for you. It's rewarding for the kids as well."
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