‘Fort night’ a hit with first-graders, parents

Today’s students will have unique grade school memories to look back on thanks to dedicated teachers who have tried to make the most of this unprecedented school year.

Susan Delong’s first-grade class at Beverly Gardens Elementary, for example, will one day remember finishing their last couple weeks of the school year by reading their favorite book to their class under their homemade blanket forts, some lit-up with strings of colorful Christmas lights.

Delong said, not surprisingly, parents got in on the fun as well, helping their kids with the fort construction and Christmas light set-up.

“I am very proud of our staff and all the creative ways they have engaged with students during these last few weeks,” said

Cristi Fields, Beverly Gardens principal. “Teachers are working harder than ever to meet the students needs and make learning fun.”

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Delong has been teaching in the public schools system for 35 years and said she’s been using Zoom to socialize with her first graders twice a week during the coronavirus pandemic. She said she got the idea to have a fort night from another teacher in a Facebook group.

“I just thought it was so cute so I messaged the teacher and she said, ‘Sure! We are all in this together,’” Delong said. “The kids loved it. We were zooming for at least an hour and a half and I was like ‘Aren’t you kids getting hungry? They were like ‘No! We don’t want it to end, we’re having so much fun.’”

Fort night might be remembered as one of the student’s favorite Zooms of the year, however, Delong has organized a number of activities that were a hit with students.

This week, the students participated in a “Zoom puppet talent show” where they made sock puppets and then showed-off a talent of their crafted sock friend.

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“One little girl had her puppet sing to the class,” Delong said. “One (student) had a super hero, so he was telling us about their powers.”

Usually in the fourth quarter of the school year, Delong will teach her first graders all about geometric shapes. Due to learning at home, Delong’s students were introduced to the subject through a Zoom scavenger hunt.

“They would all take off and go run to find their geometric shapes and bring them back to share them with us,” Delong said.

As much fun as Delong has had with her students and staying virtually connected, she said she dearly misses doing what she loves the most in an in-person setting.

“To be honest, it’s been very much a learning experience,” Delong said. “This is my 35th year teaching in the public schools and so, I didn’t learn all this technology in college. It’s been an experience. I’m sure hoping I can be back in the classroom where I belong next year.”

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