By Kathy Brown.
(June 30, 2021) — Jay Granucci has been teaching art at Regional School District #17 for 40 years. He started at Killingworth Elementary School on a rolling cart, going from room to room. That is when he began the art show tradition at the elementary school as well. He then moved to Burr Elementary School, then split his time between Haddam Elementary School and Burr, and then moved back to Burr only when Haddam Elementary closed. This year, because of COVID protocols, he was back on a cart.
“I felt that I adapted to this way of teaching without much problem as I started my career pushing into classrooms for the first five years, forty years ago,” said Jay. But it wasn’t quite the same. “I had to quarantine two different times this year, which meant teaching art from my kitchen to the kids at school or at home.”
Teaching any subject online, or hybrid is a challenge, but for such a hands-on subject, it is especially difficult. “I used Screencastify for video taping my lessons during Hybrid,” Jay explained. “I used a document camera and my computer to demonstrate my lessons to the students who were full remote during hybrid and when I had to quarantine. I had my second computer set so that I could see the kids at home at the same time.”
For Grades 2 and 3, he used Google Classroom, and for grades K and 1, he used Seesaw. Both are platforms that allow for assignments (either written or video) and the children turn in the assignments in different ways. “We were given two days to learn the new platforms before school started in September,” said Jay. “If it weren’t for several of my colleagues, I wouldn’t have survived learning the new platforms and feeling confident to teach that way so quickly.”
District #17 decided to start school in Hybrid mode, so for September and part of October, students were in school some days each week, and at home the other days. When the school switched to full in person in October, some families decided to remain remote, which was an option this year due to Connecticut mandates. “Gradually many that were full remote eventually returned to full in person by the end of May,” Jay said. “I think we ended the year with less than ten kids who were still full remote for the whole school.”
With kids still at home learning, it meant that he had to teach to the kids in school and at home at the same time. The kids at home would sign on through either Google Classroom or Seesaw, depending on their grade. The full remote students had to have their parents pick up their art supplies from the school prior to the new project.
At the beginning of April, Jay was finally allowed to start having two classes a day in the art room, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. All extra furniture was removed from the room so that the tables could be distanced from each other, facing the front of the room. The tables and the supplies were disinfected between each class. Some supplies were only used for one class, while other supplies rotated every 48 hours so that they could be used by more than one class. “It took a lot of planning on my part by constantly disinfecting supplies and making sure the supplies were not being shared between students and classes,” said Jay. “I kept Post-it notes on everything so I could remember which class was using which supplies and which supplies had been disinfected!”
By the end of April, he was teaching all of his classes in the art room, which allowed him to teach his clay unit. “I had a lot of catching up to do with certain parts of my curriculum,” Jay explained.
Usually he has a team of parent volunteers who help him hang up and set up the art for the art show each year. This year, he photographed thousands of projects that the students completed for the virtual art show. The virtual show included short videos of each student telling what they liked most about art class and what was their favorite project of the year. A parent volunteer who is great with graphic design helped with the technology aspect of the virtual art show. “This made the show look professional, with an artistic presentation for all the parents,” explained Jay.
“I’m happy that I was able to keep my art program as normal as possible this year,” Jay said. “I wanted to continue to give the kids a quality education in art, which is what they deserved this year, especially since they didn’t get to have an art show last year [due to COVID]. I didn’t let this pandemic stop me from making art class fun for the kids this year.”