Virtual Learning

By Marianne Berkes

Who would have thought a year ago that teachers would be getting in touch with me about remote learning? There was no coronavirus pandemic then and educators, face to face with students happily in their classrooms, didn’t have to teach online. Sadly, now they do. It’s the way they connect with their students, as schools have shut down across our country and the world.

These dedicated “heroes” were thrown into situations they never dreamed of. Many had to learn online instruction themselves before they could keep their students engaged. But they are doing it, offering enrichment resources to enhance learning and even creating their own YouTube tutorials.

Early Childhood Development and Special Needs Teaching

One of the first emails I received was from Jeanette Canyon, who is an early childhood art teacher in Columbus, Ohio, and the illustrator of two of my books, Over in the Ocean, in a Coral Reef and Over in the Jungle, a Rainforest Rhyme. She created distance-learning tutorials and book-sharing videos using our books. How cool is that?

Two days later I received a request from a special needs teacher in Lancashire, England. “Due to lockdown, I’m creating videos in British Sign Language for children at our school. I was hoping with your permission to video myself ‘signing’ your book, Over in Australia.” The video is posted on YouTube and the school’s Facebook page. It’s a really nice video.

From Edmonton, Canada, came “I would love to record myself reading your book, Going Home, the Mystery of Animal Migration to my second graders as we have been studying migration. I will also use the learning activities in the back of your book.”

A teacher in Tanzania, East Africa, wrote, “We, like many, are doing distance learning. I am seeking permission to read Over in the Ocean aloud to my students.”

It is amazing to me that educators nationwide and even abroad know about my books and are using them in so many different ways during COVID-19.
I heard from a number of music teachers, which warmed my heart. I often used music in the classroom to help kids learn.

From Manitoba, Canada, “Since the COVID crisis began I have been working from home, teaching my students online. Being a music teacher, my role is a little harder to continue as being in class is the most effective way to reach my students. To remedy this I created a YouTube channel for my students and kids in general to watch, learn, explore and enjoy music. My videos range from activities to try at home to instruments from around the world. Music is my passion and though this COVID crisis has confined us to our homes, I refuse to let it silence my music classroom. Music is what brings this world together and it’s how I’m bringing my
students together.”

Adaptive Music Classes and State Parks

From Berklee College of Music: “I am a special needs adaptive music teacher and my students absolutely love when I bring your books in to sing and move to with them.”

Over the years, I have also heard from a number of state parks and nature centers who use my Over in the Forest for Story Walks. They post each page on a stake along a path that kids and parents follow as they read the book. But this one that I received the other day, I had to share:

“I am the Interpretive Specialist for ten state parks in Washington State. With the challenges COVID-19 presents in engaging visitors, I am working on storybook nature trails to deploy in our parks throughout the summer and fall. I would like to use Over in a River and Marsh Music in two of the state parks, and Over in the Forest in the rest. Would you allow us to scan and print enlarged pages of your books for this purpose?”

Of course my answer was “Yes, Yes, Yes!!” What a thrill it’s been to know my books are helping educators celebrate a love of reading, singing, and learning — and a love of nature, no matter where they are.