Teacher with student demonstrating skill

Since schools’ doors closed due to COVID-19 and learning shifted online, many parents have gained a newfound appreciation for the labors of teachers. Juggling at-home day care and education with their own fulltime work responsibilities, parents can use all the help they can get — especially parents of preschool and kindergarten children who require more hands-on guidance and supervision.

Fortunately, there are professional resources available online. Sharon Carver ’82 has been director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Children’s School, which educates Pittsburgh children from 3 to 6 years old, for 27 years. In response to the pandemic, the Children’s School shared a comprehensive online toolkit that parents and educators can use to supplement at-home activities.

“There are so many ways for children to learn through play while at home,” Carver said in a story that appeared on the CMU website. “Since not all preschools have the resources to develop age-appropriate support for remote learning, we wanted to make the suggested activities and videos that our teachers are creating available in a central location so that everyone can use them.”

For families of young children, Carver and her team provide daily age-specific instruction that parents can use to supplement their own activities. Teachers can access a variety of thematic unit resources, such as “Math & Building” and “Healthy Mind & Body,” that can help inform their online instruction. The school also launched its own YouTube channel, which has 35 educational videos and is updated every Friday.

The lessons and activities support “scaffolding,” a teaching technique that challenges children to use what they already know to discover what they could know. “By modeling a skill, giving hints or asking provocative questions, and then gradually reducing the coaching provided so that children are increasingly independent, adults create a bridge to new levels of skill that are currently just beyond the child’s reach,” Carver wrote in her most recent Director’s Corner message.

With some scaffolding of our own and some good fortune, we can look forward to when it’s safe to send our children back to classrooms. Until then, keep looking for the helpers, as Pittsburgh’s own Mr. Rogers liked to say. “If we’ve learned nothing else in the past few weeks,” Carver added, “it is the importance of support.”

To access the Children’s School resources, visit its websites for Families and Educators. And to learn more about the school’s mission as a learning laboratory, watch its new video.


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Writing in the time of coronavirus: John McPhee’s legendary course goes virtual

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University president uses medical degree to help inform university COVID-19 response

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Read more about how he and other university presidents responded here.